BLOOMINGTON - The mayor of Bloomington has expressed his support for an expansion of the Monroe County Convention Center. Speaking before the Bloomington Common Council Wednesday evening, John Hamilton said he was in favor of a 1 percent food and beverage tax on prepared foods to fund the potential project.

The facility, located in downtown Bloomington currently includes 24,000 square feet of space and can accommodate up to 800 people, according to its website. A resolution expressing the city's support of the food and beverage tax is currently being considered by the council and says the convention center's limited size prevented 40 groups from holding events in the city.

The resolution, if passed by the council, would urge the Monroe County Commissioners and Monroe County Council to implement the tax, which Hamilton says would generate $17 million each year.

In a statement released Wednesday, Hamilton said an expansion of the convention center is "much needed" and will "enhance, compliment and support our existing amenities." You can read the full statement below:

Time is of the essence on this project.  With the changed dynamics that I-69 brings, we must protect the vitality of our downtown and make sure this much needed Convention Center expansion happens where it will best enhance, compliment and support our existing amenities and be the most attractive product possible for prospective convention business. I strongly believe that the heart of our vibrant downtown is both where convention visitors want to be and where it is in the best interest of our community for them to be.  As a community we should be highly motivated to continue to build on the kind of city center that attracts visitors from far and wide.

We have demand, we have desirable land, we have basic infrastructure, we have studies that prove the need for the facility.  Now is the time to join the 27 other Indiana communities that use this funding tool and stand with our County elected officials to support the missing piece - a Food and Beverage Tax. I have said for years that this tax is the support we need to turn this vital economic development project - which would generate $17 million annually - into a reality in our downtown. I’m asking the City Council to pledge its portion of a food and beverage tax, if enacted, toward the construction and operation of an expanded Convention Center.  

When done well, Convention Centers are hubs within a community.  They are civic and architectural landmarks.  They generate jobs, attract visitors, support nearby enterprises and activate the areas in which they are located. They are where many collective memories in a community are made. I suggest that Bloomington and Monroe County not only pursue this Convention Center expansion, but pursue a convention center that will make this community proud for decades to come.

The city council did not vote on the resolution and a time frame for a vote has not yet been announced.