At long last, the end is in sight for construction work on the Memphis Cook Convention Center, which will allow the 2003 show an additional 30,000 to 35,000 square feet of exhibit space.

“We’re very excited about the potential this offers for expansion of the show,” says Lee Todd, executive vice president of the Southern Cotton Ginners Association, which sponsors the yearly event along with Delta Farm Press.

“Over the past several years, while construction has been under way, we’ve been limited in space available for exhibits. We’ve had to put exhibits in the lobby and mezzanine areas, which resulted in crowded, less-than-ideal traffic flow configurations, and often we couldn’t give exhibitors all the space they wanted.

“Now, we’ll have a total of nearly 200,000 square feet, which will allow our show to grow, and we’ll no longer have to use the lobby/mezzanine areas. Everything will be in two large halls, which will offer opportunities for larger, more creative exhibits, and will allow showgoers to more easily navigate the exhibit areas.”

Todd said he met recently with convention center officials to inspect the facilities, and “what they’ve accomplished is quite impressive - Memphis now has a first class convention center that will be able to handle many kinds of events.”

In addition to the expanded exhibit areas, more meeting rooms will be available for companies wishing to hold private functions.

The gin show, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, is the largest indoor exhibit of agricultural products, equipment and services in the Mid-South and the largest cotton equipment trade show in the nation. Some 15,000 people attend annually.

“The new convention center will be a far cry from the first show, held in 1952 in the Shelby County Building at the Memphis fairgrounds,” Todd says. “We hope everyone will plan on coming to Memphis Feb. 28-Mar. 1 next year for our biggest and best show ever.”

e-mail: hbrandon@primediabusiness.com