COVINGTON. Ky. – When it comes to convention centers, size does matter.
Leaders say they’re losing business because the 20-year-old Northern Kentucky Convention Center is now considered too small.
"We are actually profitable here at the convention center but we're turning away business," said Brent Cooper of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. "We're actually turning conventions away because they've outgrown us. They've grown up with us, but now they've outgrown us."
So now the long-discussed idea of expanding the building at One West RiverCenter Boulevard is finally getting off the ground with the selection of a firm to lead a feasibility study.
"We have been considering plans to grow our center for a number of years as our business increases," meetNKY President & CEO Eric Summe said. "Now is the time to take this important step to ensure our center is competitive for years to come.”
Leaders believe they have the right spot on the Covington riverfront. They just need more space.
"Right here at the convention center you can walk to a Reds game, you can walk to a top-10 aquarium, you can get world-class eating at Mainstrasse Village," Cooper said.
With a brief walk around the RiverCenter entertainment area, you can already see signs of growth.
"We were able to secure the area and the patio as a way to let people come down to the Covington area and not only enjoy themselves if they're local, but if they're out of town," said Jeff Ritson of RiverCenter Entertainment, LLC.
They figure more space equals more opportunity, not only for conventions, but for people who work in the area and stay in the hotels.
"Provide services not only to the folks that come down here to work in the towers but also to the individuals that are staying over in the hotels as well as the convention center," said Ritson.
The area already is a top source of tourism dollars for Kentucky. The Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce reports that Northern Kentucky tourism generates more than $5 billion of economic impact and supports over 77,000 jobs.
A Minneapolis-based company, Conventions, Sports & Leisure International (CSL), was chosen to do the feasibility study. It will examine the marketability, funding and design for a potential expansion.
The study will take 12 to 14 weeks.
If the expansion gets the green light, it will be the convention center's first major upgrade since it opened in 1998.