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  • Lyons' organization to convene in Tampa

    By CRAIG PITTMAN

    ©St. Petersburg Times, published July 16, 1997


    TAMPA -- Before the Rev. Henry J. Lyons became embroiled in controversy last week, he committed the religious group he leads to hold its 1999 national convention here -- just in time for his re-election bid.

    "It's a substantial convention, a weeklong convention," Jim Wood, vice president of convention marketing for the Tampa/Hillsborough Convention and Visitors Association, said Tuesday.

    Wood estimated the annual gathering by the National Baptist Convention USA would bring more than 15,000 visitors to the Tampa Convention Center and Ice Palace. He said such a large gathering might have an economic impact of $8-million to $10-million.

    "They're going to use every hotel room in Hillsborough County and probably in Pinellas County, too," Wood said.

    The selection was supposed to be announced at a news conference next month, Wood said. He said Lyons "wanted to have the convention in his home state (in 1999) because that's when he'll be up for re-election."

    The Tampa convention was planned long before Lyons' current troubles, which began with his wife's arrest July 6. Pinellas deputies said Deborah Lyons admitted burglarizing a house on Tierra Verde her husband owns with another woman.

    As a result of the stories about Lyons, Wood said, Hillsborough officials called the National Baptist Convention USA office in Nashville to make sure the 1999 gathering was still set.

    Wood said they spoke to Brenda Harris, executive director of the office of conventions and meetings, and she assured them that Tampa will be the host city.


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