Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox is growing more certain by the day that planning and building a large-scale event hall is the right move for developing an experience economy within the city.

The first serious discussions about creating a new convention center or sports megacomplex began shortly after Maddox's Elevate Tuscaloosa tax plan was passed in 2019, but like so many other endeavors, those discussions were effectively tabled months later by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With vaccines widely available and case counts down across the city, state and nation, Maddox and other city leaders have circled back to the concept of the events center.

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This year, those efforts have been spurred on by a preliminary feasibility study released by the Chicago-based C.H. Johnson Consulting firm. As the Thread reported in February, the preliminary findings suggested a new venue in which the largest space is somewhere between 20,000 and 40,000 square feet could be beneficial for the city.

A space of that size would be larger than the Bryant Conference Center, the Tuscaloosa River Market, the Embassy Suites and the Hotel Capstone, but smaller than regional powerhouses such as the Birmingham Crossplex or the Hoover Met Complex.

In his Mayor's Minute blog, Maddox said Friday that the consulting firm is continuing its work for the city, but municipal leaders are beginning to do their own due diligence as well.

Maddox said he met Thursday with stakeholders from the city's Business Advisory Council and Tuscaloosa Tourism & Sports, many of who have traveled to cities comparable to ours on Benchmarking Trips hosted by the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama.

"On these trips we’ve visited Chattanooga, TN; Asheville, NC; and Greenville, SC; - cities that have made major strides towards an experience-based economy," Maddox wrote. "A common thread among city leaders we’ve met with on these trips is that none of them have ever regretted building their legacy project. In fact, the only regrets we’ve heard have been that they didn’t build their aquarium, arts district, arena, etc. sooner or on a bigger scale."

Maddox teased soon-to-be-announced community engagement meetings about a possible event center and said as these conversations continue, he is growing more sure that the city should move forward on this path.

"As we continue our due diligence process in consideration of building an event center in Tuscaloosa, the more feedback we receive, the more certain we can be that this legacy project is the right fit for our City," Maddox wrote. "This summer, I will be scheduling a series of public appearances out & about in Tuscaloosa. The schedule of those events will be announced soon, and I would love for each and every one of you to plan to come out to one of those events and let me know your thoughts about the potential event center."

The mayor also solicited feedback via email at mayor@tuscaloosa.com.

For updates on a potential convention center coming to the Druid City as they become available, stay connected to the Tuscaloosa Thread.

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