Muskegon convention center more likely now than ever before

It would offer space less than the DeVos Place Convention Center in downtown Grand Rapids.

MUSKEGON, MICH. - After two-decades of talk, it looks like leaders in both Muskegon County and the city of Muskegon may be ready to build a convention center. The idea of a convention center in downtown Muskegon was first talked about two-decades ago.

Now a public/private agreement is in place to move the idea closer to reality.

"Interested parties have signed and approved letters of intent to move forward," said Stephen Gawron, Muskegon Mayor.

That agreement clears the way for more detailed discussions. Among the big challenges is how to pay for construction of a convention center. The estimated construction cost would likely be around $15 million.

Community leaders involved in discussion say the likely location for a convention center is on 4th St.

No designs are available. The convention center would likely eliminate one block of 4th St. and connect to the L.C. Walker Area and Holiday Inn Muskegon Harbor.

"That is our largest hotel downtown with 202 rooms," said Bob Lukens, Community Development Director for Muskegon County. 

The projected size of the convention center would be smaller than the DeVos Place in Grand Rapids. 

"The idea is a small convention center that would be able to accommodate a lot of state association, other organizational meetings," said Lukens. "Small conventions and small to mid-sized consumer shows."

And if built would likely result in a big increase in the number of annual visitors to the region. 

"1.6 million visitors come here each year, but mostly they're in the summer and the fall," said Cindy Larsen, Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce President. "We need the visitors year round to create career jobs in hospitality."

The earliest the convention center could possible open for event would be 2020. 

Construction may be funded by the existing county-wide 5 percent lodging tax. Also under consideration is a proposal to create a new room tax on hotels within the city of Muskegon.

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