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KALAMAZOO, MI-A new feasibility study suggests the city’s Downtown desperately needs a new $23-million convention center. The nine-month study by Chicago-based Economics Research Associates suggests the city lacks significant meeting space, and recommends a new 100,000-sf structure that would take about four years to build.

“We don’t have an adequate amount of exhibit space in the county,” says Ken Fischang, executive director of the Kalamazoo County Convention and Visitors Bureau, which presented the results. “When you compare the amount of exhibit space [here] with other cities, we’re dead last.”

Research shows building a free-standing facility that can simultaneously allow for large meetings and major exhibits is feasible and something Kalamazoo should do, Fischang says. “A convention center would position Kalamazoo County to go after new meeting and convention markets that were once considered too big [1,000 to 3,000 people],” Fischang’s group reported in a summary of the study.

The Radisson Plaza Hotel & Suites, 100 W. Michigan Ave., currently offers the only large meeting space Downtown, with about 49,000 sf. Convention and Visitors Bureau officials say the next step in the process includes meeting with various stakeholder groups to secure support for the plan and identifying funding sources.

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