|By Jerry Kronenberg, Boston
HeraldMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
June 20, 2011--A blue-ribbon committee is expected to endorse a $2 billion expansion to the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center today despite critics' claims that the publicly funded facility is already a white elephant.
The Convention Partnership, a group of 27 businesspeople and government officials, plans a non-binding vote on the project after 18 months of study. The group's recommendations will go to state lawmakers, who'll have the final say.
"I feel like we've made a compelling case that Boston has the ability to do more within the convention-and-meetings industry," said committee co-chairman James Rooney, who as chief of the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority supports the expansion.
Project supporters claim Boston loses some 13 major conventions a year because the city lacks enough hotel and exhibition space to attract the biggest gatherings.
They want to nearly double the 7-year-old Southie hall's exhibition area and add a 1,000-room hotel using a combination of public and private funds.
The Convention Partnership -- whose members were appointed by Gov. Deval Patrick, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino and other politicians -- seems virtually certain to endorse the plan. That's because most members have ties to either the convention center, the tourism industry or construction unions.
"There's simply no chance of them voting this down," said ex-MCCA board member and project opponent Charles Chieppo.
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