(WHAS11) -- After two decades of partnership, the National Quartet Convention (NQC) will leave Louisville and the Kentucky Expo Center in 2014.
The world's largest gathering of Southern gospel musicians and fans began meeting annually at Freedom Hall in 1994 bringing tens of thousands of people to the city.
“Oh I love it. I look forward to it every year,” Shirley Tuck, of Roanoke, Va., said.
In 2012, the NQC expected to bring 40,000 people to Louisville with an economic impact of nearly $8 million. They’ll be relocating to Pigeon Forge, Tenn. in 2014.
“It is starting to be larger than we need in some areas, and so we felt like this was more accommodating to what we need for space as well as walking distance,” said NQC board member, Jim Brady.
A new venue is being built in Pigeon Forge. It will hold 12,000 people, smaller than Freedom Hall, but the seating will mostly be on one level. Brady said it will be easier access for older attendees.
Some fans were not happy to hear about the move.
“We come from Wisconsin and our son lives here. It's a good time to visit him, come to the quartet convention and it's been like this for long enough that we love it. So, we wouldn't be happy, and I don’t know if we'd go,” Evelyn Hill, of Madison, Wis., said.
The NQC is under a two-year contract at its new location. Pigeon Forge is a tourist destination and home to Dollywood and the Southern Gospel Museum and Hall of Fame.
"Our team has worked with this convention since it moved to Louisville from Nashville," Jim Wood, president & CEO of the Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau, said. "Since then we have looked forward to seeing the friendly and familiar faces each fall and providing the service and hospitality they have come to expect from our city."
Wood also said he believed the event would not be difficult to replace because September is a peak month for conventions.