Tourism Development Authority looks to expand Benton Convention Center

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — As Forsyth County Commissioners consider locations for a new public library, the Tourism Development Authority is asking commissioners to remove the Winston-Salem Journal Parking lot on Fifth Street from potential sites since it could be used for future expansion of the Benton Convention Center.

The parking lot is one of seven sites being considered for the library. Tourism officials say it could be better used if and when the Benton Convention Center or business related to it needs to expand.

“If you end up using the parcel of land around the convention center you could end up land locking the convention center that at a time we want to expand we can’t.  We are at a point with Mast General going in downtown the old Kopper Kitchen being developed, there is a lot of activity and we need to take a long-term view of things,” said Richard Geiger, Visit Winston-Salem President.

The TDA is currently focused on obtaining funding to renovate the Benton Convention Center and says there are no immediate plans for expansion.

A study funded by the TDA and Winston-Salem shows if it’s just renovated, the Benton Convention Center could bring in nearly $45 million dollars of tourism spending a year as compared to its current $29 million.

Tourism leaders say that the parking lot is one of the only places to expand, but there are many other choices for the library. They hope commissioners will consider the current and future potential impact expanding the convention center will have on the local economy.

“Long term that may be an excellent site for other types of things that supports the convention center, convention center expansion, another hotel etc. and I think we need to start making those decisions now that can impact the community long-term,” said Geiger.