|By Scott Van Voorhis, Boston
HeraldMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
July 12, 2008 - The Massachusetts Convention Center Authority is reviewing expansion plans that would nearly double the size of the South Boston hall.
Just four years after its opening, the $800 million-plus Boston Convention & Exhibition Center has its calendar packed and the project has been lauded in the industry as a huge success.
Supporters say an expansion would allow the BCEC to attract even more business and keep Boston competitive with other cities.
Watertown-based Sasaki Associates recently presented a series of expansion possibilities to the convention authority's board.
Under one scenario, the convention hall would add hundreds of thousands of square feet of core exhibit space, boosting the total to anywhere from 800,000 to 930,000 square feet. The hall's exhibit space now totals 516,000 square feet.
"It is a confirmation of the success we have had," said James Rooney, chief executive of the state convention authority. "The consultants took a look at the bookings. They were at least impressed enough to say we think you are doing the right thing to think about expanding. That is validating."
Other ideas thrown out by Sasaki call for adding a second ballroom, possibly as large as 80,000 square feet, as well as an auditorium with up to 6,000 seats. There is also a need for as many as 50 additional meeting rooms, Sasaki found. The hall currenty has 86.
One big question looming is where such a major expansion would go, with the convention center covering two-thirds of its roughly 60-acre site.
The consultant's final report is due later this fall. After that, Rooney expects an intensive master planning process that could take another year.
"The investment in the convention center was a major public investment," Rooney said. "I feel like it's been successful."
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