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City looks to gauge interest in conference center

Some local hoteliers unaware of new concept

The conference center concept has changed yet again, after being altered several times in the past year alone.

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The most recent conference center proposal, detailed by Mayor Eric Struemph at a series of city town hall meetings, would feature roughly 20,000 square feet of exhibition space and roughly 10,000 square feet of additional meeting space. The mayor has proposed placing the facility next to an existing hotel and having it run through a “public-private partnership.” The concept is estimated to cost between $6 million and $8 million.

Before that concept was unveiled, the idea was to include a hotel with the conference center on whatever site the city chose, with the old Missouri State Penitentiary and the 200 block of West McCarty being the last two discussed. In 2010, Ehrhardt Hotels indicated to the city an interest to build a hotel adjacent to the proposed conference center on West McCarty Street and continued to express interest during discussion on using the MSP site.

But the latest plans involve only existing hotels, though City Administrator Nathan Nickolaus said the city cannot request proposals that deal with only existing hotels.

“Otherwise you’re limiting it only to local people,” Nickolaus said.

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