It's another lonely November for downtown businesses devoid of COGIC conventioneers. However, with an eye toward the future, Memphis Mayor A C Wharton decided to "crash the party" at the convocation's new site in St.Louis. His message, "Think about coming back home."
It was the divorce heard round the religious world. In 2010, after a 101-year relationship, the Church of God and Christ was moving its annual Convocation from Memphis to St. Louis. Then Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton delivered what seemed the ultimate "kiss-off."
"This too will pass," he said in 2009. "I certainly hope the city of St. Louis can accommodate their needs. I'll be frank with you. Some of the individuals we've had to deal with weren't easy to deal with."
But now in the second year of a three-year agreement, the Gateway City and COGIC officials appear to still be in the honeymoon phase. As an estimated 35,000 COGIC conventioneers make the trek, it's expected St. Louis will once again reap financial benefits to the tune of $35 million. But, hoping there's still an old flame burning in their hearts, Memphis Mayor A C Wharton, along with Convention and Visitors Chief Kevin Kane, hit the I-55 trail on Friday to speak with COGIC officials about coming back home... someday.
"We're working with the Convention and Visitors Bureau, along with the area hotels to see if we can't make an attractive offer as well as other facilities here in the city for the Convocation," stated city CAO George Little.
To many, that might sound like a desperate ploy. But to just as many, it could be viewed as a proactive step toward securing the future. Most of the conditions COGIC cited for leaving, such as not enough available hotel rooms and overpriced room rates, would still seem to exist as a barrier to a reconciliation. However, with an eye toward the future and some juggling, it's possible the city could get back in the COGIC Convocation bidding war in a couple of years.
Little added, "In the long term we're going to look at our needs as far as convention space, as far as hotel space."
So, all might not be lost, and sometimes it can be like the song that maybe "Love is Better the Second Time Around?"