The Massachusetts House of Representatives voted 130 to 19 on May 28 to support the proposed $1.1 billion expansion of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. The center, which opened 10 years ago, is expected to draw more conventions to Boston by more than doubling the center’s current 2.1 million square feet of space, according to the Boston Herald. The expansion would be paid for by taxes and fees on hotels, taxis, and other tourism-related businesses in the Boston area.
James E. Rooney, executive director of the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, which had been lobbying for the expansion, said of the move:
“We are pleased by the steady progress of our BCEC expansion legislation at the State House. Successful passage of this legislation will result in an incredible opportunity to grow Massachusetts’ share of the meetings and conventions industry and increase our economic return for the Commonwealth in a major way, including the creation of thousands of construction and permanent jobs.”
According to an article in The Boston Globe:
“Critics of the planned expansion argue that Boston is adding to a nationwide glut of convention space that has left cities building ever-larger facilities to fight for business in the volatile meetings industry. ‘What we’re looking at here is spending a whole lot of money to tread water,’ said Charles Chieppo, a senior fellow at the Pioneer Institute, a nonpartisan research organization. ‘I think what’s behind this is more the fear of losing market share than any realistic hope of capturing a larger share of a shrinking market.’”
Also in the mix is a separate competition to build a 1,000-room headquarters hotel adjacent to the BCEC, according to the Globe.
The expansion bill, which also needs the official sign-off from Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, now goes before the State Senate.