Boston Convention Center Expansion Gets Final Approval

HIL ANDERSON, SENIOR EDITOR

Boston, MA – Legislation authorizing a major expansion of the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center (BCEC) was signed by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick on July 29, just three days before the state legislature adjourned for the Summer.

The legislation provides the ultimate green light for the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority (MCCA) to move forward with an ambitious $1 billion plan that would expand the MCEC by 1.3 million gross square feet (sf), including increased exhibit, meeting and ballroom space. The convention center expansion will be paid with existing tourism-based fees and taxes.

“The expansion and enhancement of the BCEC will allow Boston and all of Massachusetts to continue to grow its share of the meetings and convention industry,” said MCCA Executive Director James Rooney.

Some of the specifics of the expansion plan include a completion date of the of the expansion sometime in the middle of 2019, with the goal to increase the BCEC’s prime exhibit space to around 850,000 sf. The center currently offers 516,000 sf of prime space, plus 160,000 sf of meeting space. The building, which opened in 1997, is ranked 24th on the Trade Show Executive World’s Top Convention Centers (WTCC) rankings and falls between the Colorado Convention Center in Denver and the Calvin L. Rampton Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City.

Once expanded, the BCEC will move up to 13th on the WTCC, ahead of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in nearby New York. The George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston will remain in 12th place with 862,200 sf of prime space.  If expansion plans for the San Diego Convention Center (SDCC) go forward, the BCEC’s expansion would still capture the 13th place in the WTCC rankings and the SDCC would then come in at 14th place (see separate story).

The expansion is a keystone of the MCCA’s Top 5 plan, a strategy to make Boston one of the top five conventions and trade show cities in the U.S.  The agency said the expanded BCEC would be able to accommodate overlapping shows as well as larger shows, and would attract 15 to 20 additional events annually to the city.

The Top 5 agenda also includes increasing the number of hotel rooms in the BCEC neighborhood by about 40%. Two mid-priced hotels are under construction, and a developer for a 1,000-room headquarters hotel will be selected by the end of the year. Funding for the hotel was not part of the BCEC expansion legislation signed by Patrick.

Reach James Rooney at (617) 954-2470 or jrooney@massconvention.com