Convention Center Leaders Ready To Restart Expansion - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Convention Center Leaders Ready To Restart Expansion

As FEMA prepares to pack up and move out of the Mississippi Coast Convention Center, convention center organizers plan to pick up and move forward with plans to improve and expand. 

A bond passed in 2004 paved the way for funding to expand the convention center. But Katrina put those plans on hold, along with convention center business. 

Susan Gaffney has worked in the events and planning business for nearly 15 years. She started Dynamic Events Inc. about a month after the storm and she's weathered the storm of the industry.  

"Pre-Katrina, the convention industry business was booming," Gaffney said. 

Although that boom has slowed down post-Katrina, the Mississippi Coast Convention Center is gearing up for a comeback. 

"This right here is what the convention center looks, like right now it's all open. This is the expansion," Coliseum Director Bill Holmes said.  

With the expansion, the convention center will improve and expand key features. It will double its banquet hall, making it one of the largest in the south and feature more lobby, registration and meeting room space. All are features that, executive director Bill Holmes says, will bring back the business.

"It's a no brainer for these meeting planners to bring their meetings here. We just got to get our hotel inventory up.  We need to get our meeting space rolling and they're coming," Holmes said.

Gaffney agrees that despite challenges, a bigger center could mean a brighter future for convention center business.

"There are going to be some challenges with the rooming inventories, but we do have a lot of support from prior clients wanting to support us because they love the area," Gaffney said. "Patience and time and we will be back."

The Convention Center will close next July for six months during construction. At that time, the Coliseum arena floor will be used for some conventions. Bill Holmes says the expansion is scheduled to wrap up in 2009.

by Krystal Allan

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