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July 30, 2014

Boston Convention Center Gains $1B for Expansion; Critics Speak Out

The Associated Press is reporting that Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed a bill on Tuesday that will authorize a $1 billion expansion of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. The legislation authorizes the state to borrow to finance the approximately 1.3 million-square-foot expansion of the convention center in the city’s South Boston neighborhood.

Patrick said the expansion help attract more visitors to the state, and supporters of the plans say the upgrade will increase the center’s operating space by more than 50 percent and help Boston compete for more lucrative conventions.

RELATED: Boston Convention Center Expansion Gains Support, Generates Controversy

But according to the Boston Herald, critics claim that the bill could drag the Hub into a pricing war with other cities for events, especially as other cities expand their own venues. Albany, N.Y., and Fort Worth, Texas, are also increasing the square footage of their convention centers. Other cities like Milwaukee also have developments in the planning stages, the story notes. 

Gregory Sullivan of the Pioneer Institute predicted that the expansion will lead to lower prices for events as cities undercut each other. “It’s a race to the bottom on prices,” he told the paper.

RELATED: Boston's Convention Center Expects Strong 2014

Back in May, James Rooney, executive director of the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority (which runs the facility)  told the Boston Globe that the planned expansion would bring in a higher caliber level of events and boost the local economy: "Our economy is grounded in knowledge-based industries, and the ability to host events and thought leaders from major international corporations in Boston is something a world-class city needs to be able to do." 

The bonds are expected to be repaid through proceeds from the state’s existing 5.7 percent tax on hotel rooms. No new taxes are currently planned. If the state falls short, the measure would allow the hotel room tax to be raised in the Boston area.

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