10 Years Ago: Debating the Convention Center

In the JFP's early years, the now-built convention center was but a mere plan with much controversy surrounding it. Publisher Todd Stauffer wrote much about the pros and cons of convention center—and the prescient problem of the need for a convention-center hotel, as well as the concern for who would pay for it.

Here is an excerpt from his Sept. 22, 2004, piece about it, available at jfp.ms/convention14.

Convention business in the U.S. is indeed tough, most convention centers lose money, and the economic benefit of a convention center can vary dramatically.

In the case of Knoxville and Shreveport, their solutions to disappointing convention business have been more investment—each city is now working on a city-subsidized convention hotel. The "host hotel" issue is brought up again and again—few convention centers thrive without a host hotel connected (or at least contiguous) to the center; the Capital City Convention Center has no funding for a host hotel, although there's a plot where one could go in the plans. Given current trends, it's unlikely that a hotel company would build one in Jackson without considerable subsidies.

And that host hotel could be a big issue—with only 508 rooms within walking distance of the convention center, conferences with thousands of attendees would need to stay at High Street and Interstate-55, where another 1,200 rooms await. It could be a nice problem to have, but it might also encourage event planners to choose more accommodating cities.

Support for the Capital City Convention Center plan appears to be strong—this week the Capital City Convention Center campaign will announce a list of supporters, including over 100 restaurants in Jackson, companies such as BellSouth and Marriott, and religious organizations. On Thursday, Sept. 23, Jeff Good and Dan Blumenthal, co-owners of BRAVO! and Broad Street Baking Company, are holding their own press conference at Banner Hall to pledge support for the convention center.

The opponents have strong support as well with much funding reportedly coming from outside the city. Cashion said: "MHRA provided the 'seed' money to start up and create the structure. We have received several corporate contributions and numerous individual contributions from restaurateurs and hoteliers." He declined to detail the specific funders.

From here, it's a footrace, with supports looking for 60 percent of Jackson voters to believe that there's a pent-up demand for convention space—while detractors try to encourage voters to dump this proposal and second guess whether Jackson needs a convention center at all.


krusatyr 8 years, 7 months ago

Current Convention Center proponents now have a dusty, mostly vacant Convention Center to meet in to determine how to make a Rodeo Hall out of it.


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