The issue of whether or not to build a convention center in Jefferson City with taxpayer funds has been a contentious one. At a public forum Monday hosted by the Jefferson City council, there was debate over proposed locations and whether or not the city should fund the project. The expected cost of over $9 million dollars is to come from existing lodging tax revenue.
The issue has caused friction inside Mayor Eric Struemph’s administration. City Administrator Nathan Nickolaus was fired by the city council on Thursday. He hinted at the reasons in an interview with KMOS radio on Friday, in which he said that the council would be looking for specific answers from Nickolaus’ replacement on the council’s upcoming priorities, including the conference center.
At the public forum, event planner Pat Amick said the associations she plans conferences for would like to use Jefferson City, but there isn’t enough space. “We are forced to consider other areas. I do believe a conference center with a hotel property is needed and the time is now for us to go forward.”
Capital Mall manager Jamie Reed cited a recent market study and said “the convention center will attract roughly 100,000 new visitors a year to Jeff City.” He said the proposed site at the mall would benefit not only the mall but the entire western section of the city.
Not everyone that spoke out was in favor of the project, however. Glen Costales objected to the plan to built the center adjacent to a hotel, because “if you build [a convention center] in conjunction with a private enterprise, where do you draw the line between public property and private property?”
Once council members choose between the two proposed sites and finalize a developer bid, the council will make a final decision on whether to approve funding for the project.