Shelby County leaders vote against convention center expansion - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

Shelby Co. leaders vote against being a part of convention center expansion study

Former Mayor Willie Herenton and Mayor A C Wharton have both pushed for these talks in the past. Former Mayor Willie Herenton and Mayor A C Wharton have both pushed for these talks in the past.
Efforts to build a new convention center and hotel resurfaced back in October after talks that Memphis could lose its convention status. Efforts to build a new convention center and hotel resurfaced back in October after talks that Memphis could lose its convention status.

(WMC-TV) – Shelby County leaders voted 5 to 4 Wednesday in committee to not be a part of a Memphis Cook Convention Center expansion study committee.

"That's what this is about. This is about us getting a voice at the table, a voice or reason," said county commissioner Steve Basar.

Former Mayor Willie Herenton and Mayor A C Wharton have both pushed for these talks in the past.

Efforts to build a new convention center and hotel resurfaced back in October after talks that Memphis could lose its convention status. That could mean the city would lose out on conventions and tourism dollars to competing cities like Nashville and St. Louis.

"Many of you sat here last spring and voted against every expenditure possible. To put this on the list with all the other things in front of us makes no sense at all," said county commissioner Mike Ritz.

There are concerns that building a new facility would be a financial struggle not only for Memphis but also for taxpayers. That concern was shared among county commissioners Wednesday morning.

Another issue is that Shelby County has already sold its interest in the current convention center. The county sold its share of the convention center to the City of Memphis three years ago. And while county leaders want tourists to continue to flood the Bluff city, they are not interested in paying for it.

"I think the convention center and community need to realize we can support modest sized conventions and that's it," said Commissioner Ritz.

Tourism leaders say it was never their intent to force the county back into financing the aging convention center. This expansion study committee is merely being formed to look at options to either renovate or rebuild the facility.

"2012 was the busiest year in the history of that building, but we're still facing stiff challenges," said Kevin Kane with the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Memphis Cook Convention Center's General Manager Pierre Landaiche did not want to comment on Wednesday's commission committee vote.

Copyright 2013 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.

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