Downtown convention center to close for construction for two years
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A closed for construction sign will be hanging over Louisville's downtown convention center for two years.
The Kentucky State Fair Board announced a year ago that it was giving the convention center a $180 million make-over and expansion. Now it confirms the building will close during construction.
The Fair Board is adding more than 50,000 square feet to the International Convention Center, increasing its size by more than a third.
But it does mean the building will close for two years, starting in August of 2016.
“It shortens the length of construction time, based upon the information we received from our construction design team, and also it's an opportunity for us to be able to save some dollars on our construction costs,” said Rip Rippetoe, the president and CEO of the Kentucky State Fair Board.
The Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau says during the closure, it will continue its efforts to attract downtown tourism.
“Our goals will focus on some strategies to mitigate the loss during that period of time, but we are really ramping up, because this is great news, for 2018 when the building opens,” said Executive V.P. Cleo Battle,
While Louisville's Tourism agency says it can work around a closed convention center for a couple of years, nearby restaurants say it will have an impact.
The owner of Zoup! restaurant says convention visitors are about a third of his business.
“It's definitely going to be a hardship. We're extremely disappointed to hear it's going to be closing,” said Paul Gilles.
Rippetoe says conventions are being redirected to the Yum! Center and to the Expo Center. Others have rotated to later years.
“By doing that, we've been able to keep that business in the community,” he said.
But Gilles says that's little consolation.
“We don't do as well off the YUM! because it's five block away. But it still helps,” he said.
While there may be short-term pain, Gilles admits he is looking forward the long-term gain of a new and improved convention center.
“If we make it through the two years with it being closed down, I'll be looking forward to it being much larger,” he said.
Rippetoe says the convention center has a $60 million a year economic impact on Louisville.
Without the expansion, he says, there will be a decline in convention business.
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