Mid-South business headlines: Future of Memphis convention center post-renovation dimmed due to COVID-19 concerns

Updated: Jun. 22, 2020 at 4:57 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Renasant Convention Center in Downtown Memphis has been undergoing renovations for years. Now with the completion looming, a pandemic has canceled most events.

The $200 million, long-anticipated renovation is set to reopen at the worst possible time. We spoke with Memphis Business Journal Editor-in-Chief Greg Akers about how this building will handle generating revenue in the future.

Akers said it was controversial to commit that much money to a renovation in hopes that the city would be competitive for major meetings and conventions.

“So they finally decided it was worth the investment and have kind of circled Fall 2020 for a couple years now of when those renovations would be completed,” said Akers.

He said Kevin Kane, the president of Memphis Tourism, says the convention center will be ready to open in September.

“The problem is there aren’t going to be any meetings or conventions of any big size that are even conducting meetings right now,” said Akers. “The pandemic has the industry shut down. It’s really unfortunate timing because they’ve been pointing toward this moment for many years and they’ve spent a lot of money and there’s no one there waiting at the finish line for them.”

One of the biggest events usually held at the convention center is the AutoZone National Sales Meeting. Akers said according to Kane, the event could be canceled or postponed until 2021.

AutoZone has not yet confirmed their plans for the convention but social distancing remains a reality. Akers says for an event that brings thousands of people together from all over the country, it isn’t likely to happen.

Memphis Tourism does have some much smaller events scheduled for this fall, according to Akers.

Kane says social distancing guidelines from the City of Memphis regarding large events will not be released until there is a cure for the coronavirus.

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