December 9, 2008
Contact: David Raith, Maryland Stadium Authority
Mike Noah, Town of Ocean City
The Maryland Stadium Authority and the Town of Ocean City released a feasibility study for a proposed expansion of the Ocean City Convention Center at a work session of the City Council on December 9, 2008. The study, prepared by Crossroads Consulting Services and HOK Venue, evaluated the proposed expansion with a market analysis, provided cost estimates for several building options, and made recommendations for a short range plan to address the facility’s most pressing needs.
The study also considered the market for an auditorium or performing arts facility at the convention center complex.
“The Maryland Stadium Authority is again happy to work with the Town of Ocean City on their Convention Center plans, “ MSA Chairman John Morton stated. “This feasibility study provides a development strategy for long range expansion options, and also recommends capital improvements for more immediate enhancements.”
The study confirmed that the original expansion of the convention center in 1997 fulfilled its mission to extend the resort town’s season by attracting year round visitors while serving the local community. Of the estimated 110 events held annually in the facility, 35 - 40 are conventions and trade shows, comprising the largest portion of attendance.
Based on many factors, the study recommends a moderate expansion and remodeling to the convention center to modernize audio-visual and technical amenities, provide more function space to accommodate multiple events, increase prime exhibit space now limited by obstructions in Exhibit Hall C, and building a parking garage to replace lost surface space.
Distance from the airport, lack of an onsite hotel, and the number of regional residents participating in events are all factors generating more drive-in attendees. Parking at the existing facility is currently a challenge, and should be addressed in any expansion.
While the convention center attracts events that draw from outside Maryland, its current size is cited as a significant constraint by many other meeting planners and event organizers. The existing facility does not compare favorably with other comparable facilities in available exhibit space, and the study suggests that if improvements do not take place, its utilization will be limited to state and local activities.
A survey of this market determined that more than 80% would consider hosting their events at an expanded, modernized convention center. Survey respondents indicated that these attendees would be likely to extend their stay in Ocean City for one to three days beyond the length of the event, creating greater economic impact for the hospitality industry.
Based on their research, the consultants recommend that an increase of approximately 50,000 square feet of exhibit space would make the facility more attractive to convention, trade show, meeting and sporting events. A new garage with 1,000 - 1,500 spaces would be needed due to the loss of surface parking.
The site analysis and cost estimate evaluated four potential expansion options which, if implemented, could increase the use of the facility to 177 - 195 events per year.. Direct spending generated by an expanded convention center is estimated to range from $164.4 - $187.8 million in 2011 dollars. Total spending is estimated at $230.2 - $252.8 million annually in 2011 dollars, creating an additional 880-1320 total full-time equivalent jobs.
Tax revenues are estimated to increase by approximately $4 - $6 million annually.
The expansion is estimated to cost $60 - $75 million. In summarizing their development strategy, the consultants acknowledge that this expansion, although viable from a market perspective, may not be achievable at this time given current economic conditions. Therefore, after discussions with convention center management, they delivered some short term recommendations to enhance utilization and minimize expenses prior to implementing expansion plans. These include:
• continuing to provide the highest standards of customer service for the existing market
• improving energy efficiency to limit rising costs of energy consumption
• modifying Hall C and the western outdoor deck
• upgrading technical amenities, such as wireless access
• developing an on-site parking garage to meet the need of current users, and generate revenue.
As part of the study, Crossroads and HOK Venue were asked by the Town of Ocean City to analyze the feasibility of a performing arts center, seating between 1,000 and 2,000, either attached to or separate from the existing facility.
Based on the market analysis, they determined that a multi-purpose auditorium with seating capacity of 1,000 - 1,300 would be more complementary to the convention center than a dedicated performing arts center. It would also be more appropriate for the kind of event related activities associated with convention center uses. The versatility of such a facility would give Ocean City a competitive edge over similar destinations.
"This study will serve as the blueprint for Ocean City as we plan for the continued future success of the Roland E. Powell Convention Center,” said City Engineer Terence McGean. “The cooperation and assistance from the Maryland Stadium Authority was instrumental in guiding us through the study process."
Ocean City Tourism and Community Relations Director Mike Noah added his thoughts on the study findings and the decisions facing city officials.
"If the recommendation is not to fully expand at this time, we need to update the facility to continue to make it competitive," Noah said.