MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Rainy days in this old city on the bluff bring back memories. Why I can tell you about the days when a dollar really meant something. Take FedExForum. It's about what, maybe ten years old? It was built for $250 million. Peanuts when you hear them talk about a new convention center.
"You're looking at facilities in the six hundred million dollar area," says Memphis Mayor A C Wharton. "This is not something that you come up with and say, yeah, let's start on it next year."
Oh, we do have a convention center in Memphis. The city expanded it about ten years ago. It's not a pretty place, in fact it's got that East Berlin charm on a rainy day. A lot of conventions that used to come here don't, while others aren't even considering the city.
City Councilman Harold Collins says "If we're going to hold ourselves to be a city of tourism attractions, fun and excitement, then we have to do those things to create the opportunities for people to see us as that city they want to visit."
Mayor Wharton has a group already looking at convention center options. "This must be a very deliberate, well thought out process," he says.
Memphis needs a new convention center. Memphis needs a lot of things. Memphis is a place where a lot of people live in poverty, where education is often an afterthought, where unemployment is high.
Harold Collins says $600 million would do a lot of good dealing with those issues. "In my opinion," Collins says, "we haven't taken care of the core responsibilities first. Once we do that, then we can move to those other amenities such as building a brand new convention center."