The Board of Directors of the Lexington Center Corporation today unanimously voted in favor of pursuing an expansion and replacement of the Lexington Convention Center.
The proposed plan, fully endorsed by the boards of the Bluegrass Hospitality Association, VisitLex and Commerce Lexington all with unanimous votes at latest board meetings, was presented to the LCC Board at its monthly meeting.
The LCC Board and VisitLex will now move forward to seek the support of the General Assembly to increase the Hotel Occupancy tax in Fayette County by 2% and request a $75 million grant in support of the project’s capital budget.
“This is an optimistic project that, at its heart, is about economic development. Lexington’s hospitality industry is experiencing robust growth, and we must capitalize on the momentum our destination is attracting. To remain competitive, the reinvestment in our convention center is critical,” said VisitLex President, Mary Quinn Ramer.
The new plan includes over 100,000+ sq.ft exhibit hall, larger, enhanced ballrooms and meeting space along W. Main St.; and repurposed retail space at the ground level. The project will be constructed in phases so as to create minimal impact to existing business commitments.
According to Brent Rice, LCC Board Chairman, “The amount of space in this new plan is driven by recommendations made by three different studies dating back as far as 1986.” He continued “The new Lexington Convention Center will have the same magnitude of impact as the original Civic Center had in Lexington in 1976.” Studies dating back to 1986 consistently call for larger exhibit and meeting room space for Lexington to sustain and grow its position as a convention and meeting destination. The existing exhibit hall cannot be expanded due to its orientation to Main St, Rupp Arena and the Mary Todd Lincoln House. The plan calls for a new exhibit hall to be constructed west of and adjacent to Rupp Arena.
The proposed convention center plan does not include any additional renovations to Rupp Arena which is already undergoing a $15 million video/audio/tech upgrade. Some parts of the first, second and third levels of the Shops at Lexington Center and existing meeting rooms will be repurposed for retail and other uses.
According to BHA President-Elect, Marty Rothchild, “All of us recognize this as an excellent opportunity to attract new conventions as well as retain existing ones. This re-investment will certainly bring economic growth to the area. The reality is that our neighboring cities have stepped out ahead of us on this and we must move forward quickly to ensure the continued success of our membership.”