Memphis Convention Center gutted with reopening a year away

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It's full steam ahead on the modernization of the Memphis Convention Center, and plans are for the project to be fully completed next September in time for AutoZone's national sales meeting.

Make no mistake, there's still a lot of work to be done before the Memphis Convention Center goes from "work zone" to an upscale meeting and exhibit space.

Contractors started on the ground floor, knocking down walls and creating a more open concept.

"We demolished the mezzanine on this floor," project director Alan Barner said. "We spent two or three months in the first phase of this project just ripping out the concrete."

During a media walk-through Friday, workers occupied just about every inch of the cavernous structure.

"Drywall, mechanical, plumbing, electrical, fire protection, concrete, earth work, steel erectors and roofers on site, right now," Barner said.

The $200 million modernization aims to keep Memphis in the convention big leagues.

"It's what customers are looking for, it's what our customers are looking for, and for us to maintain our presence in the meetings market, it was really a 'have to, must do' project for the city," said Dean Dennis, vice president and general manager for the Memphis Convention Center.

It's clear just how much larger the convention center's exhibit and meeting space will be. With 300,000 square feet and 46 meeting rooms, visitors will immediately appreciate the makeover.

"It's not a concrete box any longer," Barner said. "It's going to be a really modern looking building."

"They're not going to see that mezzanine," Dennis said. "They're not going to see those 8-foot-6 ceilings any longer. They're going to see 20-foot ceilings, natural light and really a lot of high finishes that make you feel welcome, safe, secure and able to do your business here."

There will be some traffic interruptions during construction. From Oct. 7 through May 1, 2020, Front Street will be closed between Poplar Avenue and Jackson Avenue.

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