by Jonathan Vatner | February 01, 2005

The Boston Convention & Exhibition Center in December signed a noncompete agreement with the smaller World Trade Center next door, agreeing that the BCEC would not take business from the WTC. If a group that had hitherto met at the WTC wanted to move to the newer, larger facility, the WTC would be given six months to negotiate to try to keep the business, assuming the issue pertained to service and not space. Failing that, the BCEC would pay the WTC for the business.
    According to James Rooney, executive director of the Boston-based Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, the group that sells and operates the BCEC, this agreement was mandated at the center’s legislative birth in 1997 so that its new 516,000 square feet of exhibit space wouldn’t force the two private convention centers in town out of business. The other private center, the Bayside Expo Center, has no signed agreement but has a similar understanding with the BCEC. This type of noncompete agreement appears to be unique to Boston.
    “The BCEC is a publicly funded venture designed to bring new business to Boston,” said Jim Carmody, vice president and general manager of the Seaport Hotel and World Trade Center. “They wanted to make sure that the BCEC was focused on bringing in new business, not cannibalizing existing business.”
    “It does make it harder to fill the hall,” noted Steve Adams, president of the Boston-based Pioneer Institute, a market-oriented think tank that has been critical of the economic justification for the BCEC (the MCCA’s Rooney declined to comment on this aspect of the pact), “but it’s much more supportive for local industry. Without this agreement, the Bayside Expo Center would close.”