by Tom Isler | July 01, 2005

James E. Rooney
James E. Rooney

The Massachusetts Convention Center Authority is waging an aggressive campaign to attract medical and biotechnical groups to fill the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, which opened in June 2004.
    Bookings at the center have lagged behind projections made by consultants in the mid-1990s that had the facility hosting 34 large conventions in its opening year. James E. Rooney, executive director of the MCCA, recently dismissed those estimates as “unfair” and “outlandish.”
    The center has hosted approximately 100 events since it opened and has another 100 booked through 2017, of which only 35 are considered “large,” meaning they occupy at least one-third of the available exhibit space. Rooney hopes the new marketing campaign will help the facility reach a “stabilized rate” of 36 large conventions annually by 2009.
    The MCCA spent $48,000 in the second quarter of this year on direct mailings and ads in medical and trade magazines, extolling the Northeast as “unparalleled” in its concentration of top-tier hospitals, medical schools and research centers.
    The ads tout statistics by Boston-based research firm McKinsey and Co., such as in 2003, 295,000 physicians worked within a two-hour flight of Logan International Airport.
    Lisa M. Sykes, director of meetings for the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, said before the new convention center opened, she would not have considered Boston for her events. But when AANS recently won the bid to host the quadrennial convention for its international parent organization, the World Federation of Neurosurgical Societies, in 2009 a meeting that hasn’t been held in the United States since 1969 Sykes didn’t hesitate to choose Boston.
    Rooney added that medical conclaves already account for fully 35 percent of all conventions held in Boston.