Convention Center Events Up 10%

OCEAN CITY – Town business leaders were briefed this week on the ongoing plans for the expansion of the Roland E. Powell Convention Center, including aesthetic changes going on already, a second phase that includes the creation of a massive ballroom and a final phase that will create the resort’s first performing arts center.

Ocean City Convention Center Director Rick Hamilton addressed the town’s Economic Development Committee (EDC) on Wednesday, bringing them up to speed on a variety of real and proposed changes at the town-owned facility on the bay at 40th Street. Hamilton said the convention center has been thriving this winter and spring already without the changes that will dramatically alter the facility in the future.

“It’s a very exciting time around the convention center,” Hamilton told EDC members this week. “Since January, we’ve been up at least 10 percent on all of our events. We’re far ahead of the curve and we’re doing much better than my colleagues up and down the coast.”

Hamilton said that good news would only increase as the convention center goes through its most recent metamorphosis. Already underway are changes to the front of the facility, including a combination of the existing entrances to create a single point of entry.

“We’re combing the different reception desks and entrances into a single ‘front door’ for the facility, so to speak,” he said. “We’re putting in new landscaping to create a positive first impression of the facility.”

Hamilton said the next step is an expansion of the existing ballroom space, which he believes will put Ocean City’s convention center far above its competitors in neighboring resorts.

“The expansion of the ballroom is quite beautiful,” he said. “It’s going to be a 30,000-square-foot ballroom with glass exposure to the bay that goes floor to ceiling. It will literally look like you’re sitting in the bay. Few facilities in the country have a 30,000-square-foot ballroom, much less with floor-to-ceiling views of the bay, so it’s going to be a great selling point for us.”

Another phase will create a performing arts center. Hamilton explained the columns in the center of the facility will be removed and the floor will be lowered, creating a ceiling of about 52 feet in the arts center, which will help it attract larger shows and competitions.

Currently, center officials are collecting data and conducting surveys about the performing arts phase of the expansion. “The next phase seems to be moving forward in a positive way,” said Hamilton.