The city of Bloomington has offered to take over development of an expanded downtown convention center after years of discussions halted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The proposal has been both criticized and lauded by community leaders. Some say moving forward with expansion would mean more business in downtown while others question if the project would benefit local residents.

Talisha Coppock, executive director of DowntownBloomingtonInc., which manages the convention center, said the facility’s size routinely limits the types and number of events the community can host.

More:Mayor floats $4M buyout to take over convention center

The center annually welcomes about 500 events and 75,000 attendees, with about 70% from local businesses and organizations. The center recently could not come to terms with an Indiana-based tech company, a state government department and a sporting competition that would have brought a combined 1,300 people to Bloomington. Either the center was booked or it was not big enough, Coppock said.

A 10-year-old study suggested that a convention center expansion would generate more than $18 million in additional spending and create about 260 full-time jobs. Bloomington Deputy Mayor Don Griffin said the city has no new analysis. Data from the visitors center shows tourism-related jobs pay on average less than $25,000.

However, Monroe County Councilman Geoff McKim and Valerie Peña, executive director of the Indiana University Center on Representative Government, said tourism jobs are critical to the overall well-being of the community and to diversifying the local economy.

© 2022 HeraldTimesOnline, Bloomington, IN