Knox County businessman Keith Vaughn wants to give people a place to gather.
He’s no longer buying the bulk of the Sandburg Mall, but says he’s turning the Bergner’s anchor store into a convention center that could be a major boost to local tourism.
Vaughn said they’ve gotten plenty of bookings at his St. Mary’s Wedding Chapel in Knoxville and were initially looking at Bergner’s as a reception hall to accommodate wedding parties.
He says Bergner’s is larger than what’s needed for just wedding receptions, but he and his wife, Erin began to look into what Western Illinois doesn’t have.
“One of the things we’re missing out on, especially when it comes to tourism is we don’t have a convention center,” Vaughn says. “So people that are going to trade shows, doing meetings, bizarres, those kinds of things are all going to Peoria or the Quad Cities.”
Vaughn says he toured the facility with representatives of the Galesburg Area and Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and the Knox County Area Partnership for Economic Development, and says they’re firmly on board with his plans.
He’s estimating that the facility could seat nearly 3,000, and have standing room for about 5,000 to 6,000.
Just since The Register-Mail broke the news about Vaughn’s plans last night, he’s been contacted by some concert promoters, inquiring about the possibility of bringing name acts to town.