MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — The city of Muskegon broke ground Wednesday on a $26 million convention center.
The center will connect one of the city’s biggest hotels and the L.C. Walker Arena. But the idea of a 45,000 square feet convention center in Muskegon would have been laughed at 10 years ago.
“We’ve had horribly hard times, you know when the economy changed, and different periods of our history, but we’ve always stuck it out,” said Muskegon mayor Stephen Gawron.
But Muskegon has been on the upswing in recent years with various historic sites, breweries, restaurants and a revitalized downtown area.
Jaime Langer runs Hennessy’s Pub, which has been in downtown for a decade. It has been busier than ever.
“We see an influx in our business just from people being downtown. Ten years ago, there weren’t that many people downtown,” Langer said.
The city has made great strides in the past few years. Now, local workers want a piece of that action.
“We just hope that when they go through the bid process, they keep a focus on trying to engage as many Muskegon construction workers as possible,” said Ryan Bennett of West Michigan Building and Trades Council. “We take a lot of pride in the work that we do in Muskegon, and it’s our town. And we love to work here.”
The city says its dream of constructing a convention center could never have been realized without the years of struggle.
“I’ve never known the people in this city to be the type that would sit there and wring their hands and say ‘oh my gosh, times are bad. It’s been more of, ‘times are rough, now what the heck do we do about this, so we can move forward,’” Gawron said.
The city says the convention center will be built by early 2021.
“We’ve got some great stuff going on here. We got beautiful people here. Why don’t you come and join us?” Gawron said.