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Board Approves Hynes Convention Center Sale To Fund Boston Convention Center Expansion02:46
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The entrance to the Hynes Convention Center. (Adrian Ma/WBUR)
The entrance to the Hynes Convention Center. (Adrian Ma/WBUR)
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The state board that oversees the Hynes Convention Center has voted to put the Back Bay venue up for sale.

Nine board members of the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority (MCAA) voted in favor of the plan. The move would raise funds to expand the larger, more profitable Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in the Seaport.

Two board members with ties to the hotel and tourism industry abstained from the vote.

Earlier this week, the Baker administration said it would file legislation to authorize the sale. Proceeds from selling the Hynes would go toward a $500 million expansion at the BCEC, which would include a 100,000-square-foot exhibition hall, a 60,500-square-foot ballroom and additional meeting rooms, according to the Baker administration.

A breakdown of current and proposed future Boston convention center space (Courtesy of the Convention Center Authority)
A breakdown of current and proposed future Boston convention center space (Courtesy of the Convention Center Authority)

Supporters of the proposal said maintaining the outdated Hynes would cost $200 million over the next decade. Meanwhile, the BCEC is successful but too small. Organizers said they have turned away a significant amount of business because the venue didn't have the required floor space.

“Trying to operate what in effect is an industrial building in the middle of very elegant neighborhood is very, very difficult,” said David Gibbons, the MCCA’s executive director. He says moving events in and out of the space is a problem.

Meanwhile, the BCEC is successful but too small, Gibbons said. Organizers said they have turned away a significant amount of business because the venue didn't have the required floor space.

The front entrance of the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. (Adrian Ma/WBUR)
The front entrance of the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. (Adrian Ma/WBUR)

The authority said that, in the event of a sale, staff who work at the Hynes would have the option to transfer to the BCEC.

Still, not everyone is sold on the idea of getting rid of a venue that brings thousands of visitors to the Back Bay every year. Some Back Bay business owners say they are concerned selling the Hynes would mean fewer convention-goers in the neighborhood's hotels and restaurants.

"As long as I’ve been around, and my business is hitting 25 years, we’ve benefited from conventions at the Hynes Convention Center,” said Cindy Brown, who is the CEO of Boston Duck Tours and a member of the MCCA board. She is one of the two members who abstained from the vote.

“They often come in before a convention. They stay at the hotels, they take a duck tour, they eat at the restaurants, they shop in the malls — so there’s a lot of economic impact," she said.

Any sale would have to be authorized by the state lawmakers, but if it does happen, Brown says she hopes any new developments would include meeting or event space — something to draw the out-of-towners.

The proposal includes transferring a 12-acre parcel of land behind the BCEC to the city. The Baker administration said the parcel is not necessary for the Seaport center's expansion.

Material from State House News Service was used in this report.

This article was originally published on September 19, 2019.

This segment aired on September 20, 2019.

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Adrian Ma is a reporter for WBUR's Bostonomix team.

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