Convention Center Project Called Economic Stimulator

OCEAN CITY — Gov. Martin O’Malley and other city and state officials gathered at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center last weekend said the building’s renovation and expansion will benefit the economy through generating additional revenue and jobs.

Last Saturday, officials convened on the back deck of the convention center to officially break ground on the convention center project.

“It is exciting that we are getting ready and have actually begun the new construction for the renovation for the expansion of the convention hall,” Mayor Rick Meehan said.

The Maryland Stadium Authority (MSA) is working with the Town of Ocean City on this year’s reconstruction of the convention center, as it did during the building’s 1997 renovations.

“Ocean City is pleased to partner with the Maryland Stadium Authority on this project,” Meehan said. “This expansion will further enhance the town and the state’s economy.”

The convention center is used to book many group and event gatherings near and far to assist Ocean City become more of a four-season destination. The convention center is named after former Mayor Roland “Fish” Powell.

“The person [Powell] really responsible for us being able to do that [1997] renovation and because of all the other contributions he made to the town of Ocean City,” Meehan said. “We have a great relationship and a great deal with the State of Maryland on the operation of the convention center, thanks again to Fish Powell, and we are moving forward with that.”

Meehan said before 1997 the only bay view in the facility was when both doors of the freight elevator were open at the same time. The renovation at that time expanded the convention center to produce large open areas creating a better view of the bay front.

“They’re taking the convention center … to a new level,” Meehan said.

The new renovation will add 32,000 square feet and the two-level expansion will create an even more spectacular view of the Isle Wight Bay, creating the needed multi-purpose space for exhibits and events.

The second phase of the convention center’s expansion includes a performing arts center, which is scheduled to be completed at a later date. The full renovation and expansion of the facility will give Ocean City a competitive edge over surrounding destinations, officials say.

“We are going to continue to move forward in Ocean City with the convention center,” Meehan said. “We are moving forward toward the second phase where we will do the performing arts auditorium and that will be opened up and provide additional space … and opportunity for us to have more entertainment here in Ocean City.”

The start date of the construction was in the beginning of this month and expected to finish by October 2012. The project began in 2008 with a feasibility study performed by the MSA and based on the market analysis it was determined that a multi-purpose auditorium with ballroom space would be most appropriate for the myriad of activities sought by the convention center.

“The Maryland Stadium Authority is again happy to work with the Town of Ocean City to improve their convention center,” MSA Chairman John Morton said. “Ocean City is a reliable revenue producer for the State of Maryland, with the convention center as the engine for year-round activity. We look forward to making this excellent facility even better.”

The Roland E. Powell Convention Center renovation and expansion is estimated to cost $8.15 million and the cost will be shared by the Town of Ocean City and the State of Maryland. The estimated new tax revenue for the State upon completion is $1.1 to $1.6 million annually.

The construction of the building is estimated to generate 300 to 400 full-time jobs. During a Board of Public Works meeting in July, O’Malley was appreciative of the project’s job formation.

“Wherever 300 jobs are gathered, so too shall we gather,” he said at that time.

During last weekend’s ceremony, the governor’s gratitude over the creation of an abundant amount of job positions continued.

“We also know that a modern economy requires modern investments in order to create jobs … and the most important investments we create are job creating investments like the ones we are going to make here to expand this convention center,” O’Malley said.

O’Malley added that the renovation and expansion of the convention center is a team effort between the city government, the county and the state.

“It’s important because of the jobs it creates and there is no government program as important, as essential, or as empowering, as a job for a family to put food on their table and hope in their children’s eyes for the future,” he said.