Boston Expansion Bonds Under Review Amid Blizzard Fallout

HIL ANDERSON, SENIOR EDITOR
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Boston, MA – This Winter’s record snow in New England caused a political and budgetary ripple effect that included a second look at the funding plan for the ambitious expansion of the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center (BCEC).

In recent weeks, state and local politicians have raised the idea that the planned bond offering for the $1.1 billion BCEC expansion might be scaled back in favor of upgrading the regional mass-transit system, which bogged down in the heavy snowfall that broke the all-time Boston record for Winter snow.

The blockbuster expansion plan would add 1.3 million square feet (sf) to the BCEC, including new exhibit and meeting space as well as a ballroom. The center currently features 516,000 sf of prime exhibit space and is ranked 24th on Trade Show Executive’s World’s Top Convention Centers directory.

No decisions on altering the bond issuance have been made. In fact, no such plan has been formally proposed. But political leaders have been quoted in Boston media as saying that the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) could use some improvements to ensure that commuters aren’t left in a snow bank the next time Old Man Winter flexes his muscle. “I believe there are opportunities to invest in both the MBTA and expanding the convention center,” State Senate President Stan Rosenberg told the Boston Globe. “The recent Winter has highlighted the immediate needs for upgrading our public transit system.”

In response, newly elected Gov. Charlie Baker asked the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority (MCCA) to conduct a review of the expansion plan, which will be completed this Spring, and formed a task force to look at the current state of the MBTA.

James Rooney, executive director of the MCCA, told Trade Show Executive that the review was “a logical and appropriate step.” He said that the idea of sacrificing the proposed expansion of the BCEC in favor of mass transit was being discussed in the media more than in the state house.

“We are in an interesting moment with a new governor,” Rooney said. “We have a project that is approved by the state legislature and the former governor, but the new governor is the one who must approve the issuance of the bonds. He is looking at our plan, and I think that is good.”

“In the interim, nothing has slowed down,” Rooney said. “We are hiring project-management people and firms needed to execute the expansion program.”

Another snowstorm is predicted for Boston but this too shall pass, and the notion of diverting funds away from the BCEC could soon disappear as well.

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

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