Convention Center Expansion Project Advances

OCEAN CITY — One of the last major steps in the next expansion of the Roland E. Powell Convention Center was taken this week when the state’s Board of Public Works authorized the Maryland Stadium Authority to issue bonds for the project.

On Wednesday, Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan, City Engineer Terry McGean and State Senator Mary Beth Carozza traveled to Annapolis to attend the state Board of Public Works (BPW) meeting, during with the three-member panel authorized the Maryland Stadium Authority (MSA) to issue bonds for the upcoming expansion of the convention center in Ocean City. The BPW, made up of Governor Larry Hogan, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Nancy Kopp, on Wednesday authorized the MSA to issue bonds and structure financing terms for the state’s share in the estimated $34 million expansion of the convention center.

Last spring, the Maryland General Assembly approved the state’s share of funding for the third phase of the expansion of Ocean City convention center. The town of Ocean City partners with the Maryland Stadium Authority (MSA) on the convention center and the bill passed by the state legislature authorizes the MSA to issue up to $24.5 million in bonds to help pay for the third phase of the expansion.

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.

The expansion will 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.

The bill passed last spring changed the funding formula for the convention center expansion from a 50-50 split between the state and the city to a 60% share for the state and a 40% share for the city.

“This has been a total team effort,” said Carozza. “This facility has long been an important economic driver for Ocean City and the state of Maryland, bringing thousands of visitors for conferences and allowing local businesses to stay open and continue to hire year-round.”

Groundbreaking for the next expansion of the convention center is scheduled for next April, with an estimated completion date of December 2021. Ocean City’s convention expansion was only one of several projects on the Lower Shore for which the BPW approved funding during its meeting on Wednesday.

The board also approved $200,000 in funding to design and construct a permanent concession facility and an ADA-compliant restroom at Showell Park, $100,000 for John Walter Smith Park in Snow Hill and $100,000 to replace fencing at Newtown Park in Pocomoke. The BPW also approved $495,000 to construct a miniature ballfield at the Henry S. Parker Athletic Complex for the Challenger Little League program in Wicomico County.

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.