MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Tuesday evening, crews activated exterior lights on the Renasant Convention Center in downtown Memphis for the first time, as the final pieces in the massive renovation start moving into place.
WMC Action News 5 tagged along on a hard-hat tour of the $200 million improvements to the facility Tuesday.
City officials and Memphis Tourism broke ground on the renovation in January of 2019. The convention center now has 46 breakout meeting spaces, along with hotel finishes, improved acoustics, natural light and outdoor space.
The orange and blue tones throughout are meant to represent the Mississippi River, while patterns symbolize the river’s motion and the bridges.
For native Memphians, it is a stunning transformation.
“It was built originally in ’74. And it was built as a concrete box, like they were back then, closed off to the river,” said Dean Dennis, General Manager of the Renasant Convention Center. “It’s the exterior look, getting rid of the old concrete block and having this beautiful new facility. The versatility and flexibility that we’ve been able to accomplish through this renovation is really, really good.”
Dennis said work should finish this year. Officials are expecting a slow start to 2021 as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. The first event is set for late January, and conventions are on the books for the early part of 2021.
“Certainly COVID has put a crimp in our plans for sure. But we are looking forward to getting it open,” said Dennis.
Leaders hope the added breakout space will allow them to host multiple 1,000 to 1,500 person convention events simultaneously.
If you drive Front Street often, you may notice a new speed bump was installed in the area underneath the convention center. Dennis said Tuesday they’re aware the bump is fairly steep, and city crews will be looking into ways to level that out and make it a bit more manageable.
Here’s a beautiful drone shot of the Renasant Convention Center.