Springfield seeks way to attract more big convention business to town
For a city that depends so heavily on the tourism, Springfield lacks a key thing- a large convention center. The Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau says the lack of a major convention venue and hotel are causing planners of big events to take their business elsewhere.
Currently, convention hall space is available at the Expo Center, E-Plex at the fairgrounds, and at University Plaza. However, the size of those venues has been a limiting factor.
Tracy Kimberlin, CEO of the Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau, said, "The Expo Center is not a convention center. It is an exhibit hall. And, the exhibit hall is one element of a convention center. But, you need that high finished ballroom space and meeting space." Hea added, "The Expo Center- with the exhibit hall- is concrete floors and no chandeliers, is very are bones."
The CVB estimates in 2017 alone, the city's hotels missed out on close to 28-thousand room bookings because of a lack of a major convention center. That is lost money from guests not spending on lodging, food, gas, shopping. The Oasis recently completed new convention center space. The Doubletree and Fairfield Inn on N. Glenstone are currently doing the same. The CVB says that has helped, but those facilities are still nowhere near the size the city needs.
"Neither one of those facilities can handle large groups. If you get much over 500 people, you are stretching their abilities," said Kimberlin.
Possibilities include building on the original proposed site next to the Expo Center, a location on North Glenstone, or at US 65 and Battlefield Road. One idea attracting a lot of new attention is building one near or in conjunction with Johnny Morris' Bass Pro Shops and Wonders of Wildlife.
"Hopefully sooner than later. We have been talking about this for way too long- decades. So we need to get something moving," Kimberlin stated.