Hogan Announces $20M For Center Expansion

OCEAN CITY — The next phase of the expansion of the Roland E. Powell Convention Center in Ocean City got a fiscal shot in the arm on Thursday when Governor Larry Hogan announced he had authorized the Maryland Stadium Authority to move forward with a $20 million contribution to the project.

Hogan, in the resort for the annual Maryland Association of Counties (MAco) convention, made the announcement on Thursday morning at the convention center. The total project cost is around $34 million, with $20 million dedicated by the state and the remaining $14 million coming from the town of Ocean City, which is being funded by a portion of a significant bond sale approved late last year.

The expansion will add 30,000 square feet of exhibit space on the north side of the facility that will tie into 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.

The latest expansion was approved after a feasibility study commissioned by the town revealed there was a demand for increased convention and trade show space in the state and throughout the mid-Atlantic region and Ocean City’s Convention Center should be expanded to remain competitive.

The town of Ocean City partners with the state through the Maryland Stadium Authority (MSA) on the latest convention center expansion. On Thursday, Hogan praised the town of Ocean City and the MSA for having the forethought to continue to expand the convention center.

“This facility has long been an important economic driver for Ocean City, bringing in thousands of visitors for conferences and events like MACo and allowing local businesses to stay open and continue to hire year-round,” said he said. “I want to thank Mayor Meehan, as well as the team at the Maryland Stadium Authority, for working with us to make today’s announcement possible. With their partnership, we are able to speed up this important project, which is expected to have an economic impact of as much as $67 million and continue creating jobs right here on the Eastern Shore.”

Legislation will be submitted for the 2019 session of the Maryland General Assembly to allow MSA the needed capacity to finance the project. The convention center brings visitors to Ocean City, especially during the shoulder seasons, allowing local businesses to stay open year-round and provide full-time employment for Marylanders. Currently, the convention center has existing clients whose events have outgrown the facility and may seek out-of-state alternatives.

Hogan was joined at the announcement Mayor Rick Meehan, who pointed out the project does not uniquely benefit Ocean City, but all of Maryland with the tax revenue it generates.

“The expansion of the Convention Center is important to Ocean City and the state of Maryland,” he said. “Not only does the Convention Center generate revenue locally but has a positive economic impact on the state. We are thankful for the support of Governor Hogan and the partnership with the Maryland Stadium Authority.”

Market research suggests that the expansion will allow the convention center to better accommodate existing users, as well as attract new business in niches that are well-suited to Ocean City’s strengths, including state and regional organizations, trade shows, and sports competitions that attract overnight attendees who look for affordable family-friendly destinations.

“The Maryland Stadium Authority values our successful partnership with the town of Ocean City and is pleased to partner once again on a project that provides enjoyment and a positive return on investment for Marylanders,” said MSA Chairman Thomas Kelso.

MSA previously partnered with the Town of Ocean City on two additional expansions of the Ocean City Convention Center, since the original expansion in 1996.

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.