The Boston Convention and Exhibition Center (BCEC) is an exhibition center in Boston, Massachusetts, United States. It is among the largest exhibition centers in the Northeastern United States, with approximately 516,000 square feet (about 4.8 hectares) of contiguous exhibition space. The main exhibition floor comprises three bays that can be isolated for separate shows or linked into one large space.
The center is located on Summer Street near the South Boston waterfront, Boston’s World Trade Center, and across the harbor from Logan International Airport. It is about one block south of the World Trade Center station on the MBTA Silver Line, with direct connections to South Station and Logan Airport.
The push for a new convention center in Boston came in the late 1990s when the semi-annual Macworld trade show, previously held in Boston each summer, moved to the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City. It was believed that this move was in part because no single Boston venue could contain the entire show.
The center has been controversial because it is located in the South Boston Seaport which is some distance from the main concentration of hotels in Boston. However several new hotels have been planned or built near the convention center. The Massachusetts State Legislature authorized the BCEC under chapter 152 of the Acts of 1997, which also provided for redevelopment of the Springfield, Massachusetts convention center among other actions designed to balance the impact across the state.
Chapter 152 authorized the acquisition by eminent domain of approximately sixty (60) acres of land in the Seaport area of Boston. A subsequent conflict with local politicians resulted in a change of the name of the area to the South Boston Waterfront. The Project was a joint venture of the Boston Redevelopment Authority and the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, who employed Tishman Construction as its owner’s representative on the project.
The convention center itself opened in June 2004. That summer Macworld returned to Boston as the BCEC’s first trade show, but the show’s reduced size, due in part to lack of participation by Apple, relegated its 2005 meeting (its last) to the smaller Hynes Convention Center in Boston’s Back Bay.
With the opening of a new Westin headquarters hotel, the BCEC has staged a comeback. In 2007, the convention center saw over 1.6 million attendees booking over 1 million hotel room nights. This equates to an economic impact of over $890 million according to the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority’s 2007 Annual Report.
The New England Auto Show, long a staple for the Bayside Expo Center in the Dorchester section of Boston, moved to the new BCEC and has signed on through 2009. This show is expected to bring in 90,000 attendees to the convention center. Also in 2007, the BCEC was honored with the 2007 Convention Center of the Year at the Event Solutions Spotlight Awards. Other big shows in 2007 were AIIM/On-Demand, the Yankee Dental Congress, and eBay! Live. BCEC’s recent success has spurred further talks about expansion.
PAX moved its eastern show to the convention hall in 2010. It has brought in hundreds of thousands of attendees per year and continues to this day. The last event was from February 27th – March 1st, 2020.
Concerns that the BCEC will destroy the market for the Hynes Convention Center has so far proved unfounded as the smaller Hynes has seen a nearly 10% growth in bookings last year compared to 2006.
The new convention center was designed by Rafael Viñoly Architects, New York City, in association with The HNTB Companies, Boston. It was completed in 2004. Shen Milsom & Wilke provided the information technology design, including a flexible, re-configurable telecom network.
In 2009, the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority launched the “Top 5 Campaign”, aiming to make Boston one of the top five cities in North America for conventions. The initiative recommended increasing the number of local hotel rooms. In 2011, the Authority sought approval for a $2 billion expansion. In 2012, the large Biotechnology Industry Organization conference said it would not return as scheduled in 2018 without more capacity.
In September 2013, the state announced plans to run diesel-multiple-unit train service between Back Bay and the Convention Center, beginning in 2015. Among other benefits, the link would allow convention center goers to more conveniently use the large cluster of hotels in the Back Bay area. The connection will also create a new station next to the center.