As expected, the Maryland Board of Public Works signed off on funding the state’s portion of the Roland E. Powell Convention Center expansion this week.
This is good news for the region and shows good judgment and foresight by the state’s leaders.
It’s no secret these are difficult times for everyone, but there’s a fine line between holding the line and progress. It would have been foolish to let a wise investment in critical infrastructure pass by with an overly conservative approach, derived from fiscal concerns.
Governments, as well as private households, should carefully monitor every dollar allocated these days. It’s an opportune time to examine all expenses and determine whether there is room to cut costs or become more efficient with other means. That’s common sense.
The future expansion of the resort’s convention center does not fall into that category, and it was a relief to see the state’s governor, comptroller and treasurer endorse $4.8 million in bonds to help fund the 20,000-square-foot expansion, which will feature a beautiful bayfront showroom.
As a result of the state’s forward thinking mentality, architects will get to work immediately on design plans and optimistic estimates have construction starting by the end of the year.
The general plan here is to enclose the existing bayfront deck and loading areas, expand it to the west and south and create new exhibit space. Later, there are plans to convert the western portion of the existing ballroom to a fixed-seat auditorium capable of seating 1,200 people. Funding for the performing arts center has to be secured, however.
According to a report a year ago, the project is estimated to increase attendee days by as much as 19 percent; generate at least $23.6 million in economic impact; and potentially $2 million in fiscal impact.
In our view, any concerns over approving the expensive project in these difficult financial times are dismissed by the fact the project will be funded locally with the lowering of the food tax by half of a percent and statewide through the partnership with the Maryland Stadium Authority.
Elected officials, similar to what faces homeowners, have a challenging balancing act ahead of them across this country. They need to cut costs because the amount of money coming in is on the decline, but they also need to remain open to all options. It would have been short sighted and foolish to deny this project funding in the name of cost savings.
This convention center expansion is an exciting opportunity for Ocean City. We all need a little optimism these days, and it’s our hope this project will do what the initial renovation and reconstruction of the center did more than 10 years ago. That enlarged facility extended the shoulder seasons by hosting new events previously unable to be accommodated as well as allowing room for existing bookings to grow.
The new facility will give the town something exciting to market, in a time when gloom and doom is the norm, while also allowing for multiple bookings on highlighted weekends and the scheduling flexibility that’s currently lacking.