MU studies possibility of adding conference center

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COLUMBIA - MU partnered with a consulting company to conduct a three week survey that would help determine if another conference center and hotel near the MU campus would be put to good use in Columbia.

At the start of the 2014 fall semester at MU, enrollment numbers broke records again. MU Spokesperson Christian Basi said growing numbers on campus and in the Columbia community launched the conversation to possibly expand.

"We are even going outside of the Columbia community and saying, ‘Have you thought about coming to Columbia? If you did what were some of the types of facilities you would need?'" Basi said.

He also said community input is essential to determine what kind of facilities are needed in Columbia. The survey is being distributed to a wide variety of audiences, including students, alumni, faculty, local and regional businesses and organizations.

"We really want to establish whether or not a need exists. And so this is the very first step," said Basi.

Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Amy Schneider said MU has been transparent with the hotel community in Columbia.

"Everyone always welcomes a little friendly competition, but we want to make sure that it doesn't hurt the rest of the folks here," Schneider said.

MU student Mecca Wilkerson said adding another large facility would take up space.

"We're not going to use it honestly," she said.

She also believes if a new conference center was built in Columbia it would be a waste of money.

"I think that would just take space from expanding for dorms which we would need more than another conference center. The Hearnes center is huge, we have Mizzou Arena, Farout Field, we have all these huge spaces that we can use," said Wilkerson.

No concrete plans have been set about the details of the possible conference center or hotel. MU plans to close the study in three weeks and determine if there is a need after reviewing the results.