Convention Center Bond Bill Advancing

OCEAN CITY- Ocean City officials were in Annapolis this week to testify on behalf of a bond bill filed by Senator Jim Mathias (D-38) for state funding for the next phase of the expansion of the Roland E. Powell Convention Center.

Mathias, along Delegate Mary Beth Carozza, his counterpart in the House, are championing five different bond bills that would meet the needs of several different and important projects across the Lower Shore including the final expansion phase of the Convention Center in Ocean City.

Earlier this year, the Mayor and Council approved the next step in the convention center expansion process when they voted unanimously to request state funding for the matching share of the project through the Maryland Stadium Authority, with partners with Ocean City on the ever-expanding facility. The proposed expansion would add 30,000 square-feet of exhibit space on the north side of the facility that would tie into the existing Exhibit Halls A and B.

The expanded space could be used alone for a single event, or opened up with the other adjacent exhibit halls to create a larger space. Also included in the proposed expansion are new restrooms on the west side of the existing convention center along with expanded meeting rooms and a business center.

The total cost of the project is $34 million, of which the state is requested to fund 60 percent, or $20.4 million. The town’s share would be 40 percent, or roughly $13.6 million, which would be funded by the one cent added to the food tax in Ocean City. Several years ago, state lawmakers allowed one cent to be added to the food tax in Ocean City which is earmarked for convention center expansions.

Mayor Rick Meehan and City Engineer Terry McGean testified this week before a Senate committee in an attempt to illustrate the statewide value and importance of the necessary expansion of the convention center. Anticipating the state’s current budget and finance challenges, Mathias met weeks ago with Governor Larry Hogan’s chief of staff, senior policy members and Meehan to demonstrate the importance of the project and respectfully request the governor’s support.

“I was thrilled to receive a letter from Governor Hogan quickly after my bond bill hearings urging the Capital Budget Committee to support the Ocean City Convention Center bond request,” Mathias said this week. “Clearly, this is strong evidence that we made our case for this funding with Governor Hogan. Now, my priority is to continue working with the Senate and House fiscal leaders to gain their most valuable support for this vital project.”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.