"We have to stay competitive. We compete with cities like Greensboro, N.C., and if I'm a meeting planner looking at Charleston and Greensboro, if Charleston can't give me the facility space I need, then I'm not going to choose Charleston," Jarrett said.
Also, the civic center needs more space to satisfy simultaneous schedules, Robertson said.
While the Grand Hall is 52,000 square feet, that's still not big enough to host both a large event and an eating area, he said. The new ballroom would solve this problem.
"Because we don't have an eating space large enough to satisfy conventions, we have to be very creative in scheduling because if we require the Grand Hall for the exhibit space, then we can't do a large banquet simultaneously," Robertson said.
When the center does serve food to its meeting spaces, employees have to push carts of food throughout public corridors because of the kitchen's location, Robertson said. A new kitchen would fix that, he said.
Robertson said the meetings and conventions the civic center hosts are very important because they are generally multi-day events.
The more time people spend in Charleston, the more money they spend, he said. They become "residents of our city for several days," he said.
"The community recognizes the importance of bringing in outsiders and their money," Robertson said. "[Visitors] have an economic impact on their community if people are staying in hotels, eating at the restaurants and shopping in the stores. They're producing jobs."
Convention centers like the civic center are economic engines for cities, Jarrett said.
Tourism, by way of attracting visitors, conventions and special events, brings in an estimated $580 million to Charleston, according to the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau.
A revitalized center will attract new meetings, which will bring even more demand to Charleston, said Kristen Clemens, vice president of marketing and communications for Destination Marketing Association International.
"If the civic center is downtown and you renovate the center, which leads to more meetings and conferences, you're bringing more people to your downtown and it can really revitalize an area," she said. "It's pumping money into that district."
Robertson said he and other officials still have to choose an architect and go through different designs before any definite decisions are made.
"We aren't going to see anything happen for at least a year," he said.
Reach Megan Workman at megan.work...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.