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Here's What The Expanded Downtown Convention Center Will Look Like

When the Kentucky International Convention Center reopens in 2018, it will be bigger — and Louisville officials expect it to also be better.

The downtown Louisville convention center is scheduled to shut down for two years beginning in August 2016 for a $180-million renovation and expansion. City leaders released renderings Tuesday of what the building is expected to look like when it reopens.

The expanded convention center will be central to the success or failure of Louisville's broader downtown development strategy, which focuses on new and revamped hotels.

To city officials' thinking, those hotels will be filled by convention-goers.

A dozen projects to build or redevelop hotel rooms are ongoing downtown, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said. By 2018, the city will have nearly 18,000 hotel rooms.

Filling those rooms depends, at least in part, on the ability to attract large scale conventions to the city.

The convention-goers will also vital to the success of the city's growing bourbon tourism industry, Fischer said.

Rebecca Matheny, executive director of the Louisville Downtown Partnership, said she's confident the redesigned convention center will bode well for the city.

"One of the most exciting things is really the expansion of the overall market," she said.

Matheny expects the expanded convention center will bring a "different level" of events to Louisville.

"That's a different level of downtown economic impact, a different level of spending and just more people who come to Louisville," she said.

Fischer said the combination of convention space in Louisville — the Kentucky International Convention Center coupled with the Kentucky Exposition Center — puts the city in a good position to draw crowds away from city's like Indianapolis and Nashville.

"No other city really has that combination," Fischer said.

The redeveloped convention center is expected to have an annual economic impact of about $50 million, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear said at a press conference Tuesday.

Renovations will include expanding the stock of event space from 146,000 square feet to 200,000 square feet. A 40,000-square-foot ballroom will also be added, designers said at an unveiling of preliminary renderings Tuesday.

Peter Ruggiero, a designer of the revitalization effort, said a goal of the redesign is to open the convention center to the surrounding parts of the city and incorporate walkability around the perimeter of the complex.

He said the current design is opaque and uninviting to the public.

"We wanted to look at how we could turn the building into a much more transparent building," he said.

Ruggiero said the designs will be refined.

All convention space west of Third Street will be rebuilt, he said. Designers will also look to "strengthen the connection of the two buildings visually, so that the entire complex has a comprehensive approach."

Ruggiero said installing lights within the Third Street tunnel is under consideration.

No zoning waivers or conditional use permits will be needed for the project to proceed, Ruggiero noted.

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.

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