With only 11 groups on the books at Boston’s new, $800 million convention center, the state has taken an unpredecented new approach to its sales efforts—including giving away space. The Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, charged with bringing conventions to the existing Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center in Boston's Back Bay and to the new Boston Convention and Exposition Center opening in 2004 in South Boston, has created a separate entity to sell the two centers. That removes a $3.7 million contract the MCCA had with the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau for the centers' direct sales.

The new "affiliate entity," the Boston Convention Facilities Marketing & Sales Group, will be made up of 12 salespeople, including about five staffers from the Bureau who currently sell the center as well as about five staffers from the center's sales staff, says MCCA spokesperson Andy Antrobus,. The entity will be managed by a board made up of individuals from the bureau, the governor's office, the mayor's office, the Massachusetts Lodging Association, and three people appointed by the MCCA board.

Up until now, both the CVB and the center staff were marketing the centers, and, according to Antrobus, the bureau was "serving two masters. If the state's going to be spending this money on attracting conventions, we want convention sales to be the sole focus." He references the report that made the recommendation, which says, "The GBCVB has a broad mandate to market Boston as a destination, which results in a lack of exclusive focus on convention center marketing." And, "an imbalance at the governance level contributes to the greater focus within the organization on programs that benefit the hotel and restaurant membership, as opposed to convention center selling."

Although he knows of no other convention center sales model like this in the United States, he says that "this is the one that's going to work best in Boston." When asked if the new sales entity would be competing with the bureau's ongoing efforts to bring meetings and groups to Boston's hotels, Antrobus says yes, at least theoretically. A spokesperson for the GBCVB says it was "premature" to comment on the affect the withdrawal of the contract would have on the CVB.

The MCCA also announced that it is willing to forego rent for select groups willing to commit their events to the new BCEC in its first six months (it's scheduled to open in June 2004). Only 11 conventions are confirmed for the BCEC in its first decade, and three of those are for The North American Society of Pacing & Electrophysiology (NASPE), which announced it would hold its annual Scientific Session at the BCEC in 2006, 2009, and 2012.