Massive expansion proposed for convention center
Already one of the biggest buildings of its kind in New England, the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center would double in size under a an expansion plan unveiled today by state officials, eventually becoming a 1-million-square-foot tourism "campus" on the South Boston Waterfront.
But while trumpeting the need for a larger facility to win bigger convention shows, state officials were not able to say how they would pay for an expansion that could top $1 billion. One official acknowledged authorities will have to reexamine the existing package of travel and tourism-related taxes and fees, which pay for the current facility's debt, to see if they need to be increased.
The blueprint released today calls for the construction of several new buildings around the convention center: a new massive exhibit hall behind the center, a 1,000-room hotel to one side and a 5,000-seat auditorium elsewhere on the campus. It also calls for several parks and a network of pedestrian bridges and walkways to make the area around the center friendlier to foot traffic.
"There will have to be a discussion about the financing model and what it will take to move forward with expansion," said James Rooney, executives director of the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority.
Today's announcement kicks off a year-long planning process that will narrow down the options for the expansion and work with neighbors and nearby community leaders to determine the best location for some of the new facilities. A special commission is due to report on its findings by Dec. 31, 2010.
Only then would a finalized plan be presented to the state Legislature, which would likely have to authorize borrowing to finance construction of the expansion, as well as any revenue mechanics to repay that debt. The debt on the current facility is being repaid by a combination of taxes on hotel rooms, fees on rental cars, taxis and tourist trolleys.