Massachusetts Convention Center Authority to Produce Its Own Events

Rather than be a loss leader, relying on economic stimulus that meetings and events bring to Boston, the convention authority is looking to create revenue by coproducing events.

The Massachusetts Convention Center Authority is breaking into the events business in a new way. Hoping to create new sources of revenue, MCCA is launching its own events, including the just-announced Advanced Audio + Applications Exchange (A3E).

It should be acceptable to the marketplace that one of the major stakeholders and players, the convention centers, act in their own self interest as well.

“The notion of convention centers just being loss leaders and accepting annual losses solely for the benefit of economic impact in the destination … it’s a broken model,” James Rooney, executive director of the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority told MeetingsNet last week. “It should be acceptable to the marketplace that one of the major stakeholders and players, the convention centers, act in their own self interest as well.”

Following the model that many European convention centers already use, MCCA is partnering with other organizations in an effort to create more financial self-sufficiency and top-line revenue, said Johanna Storella, chief strategy officer at MCCA.

“We’re focusing right now mostly on tradeshows—for-profit events that are not really part of an association,” Storella said. “And we are looking at events that have good synergy with the industry here in Boston, where we think we can leverage the location and the universities and the different companies that we have here.”

MCCA is talking with Boston’s Berklee College of Music, for example, to discuss ways the school could participate in the A3E event—an international tradeshow, conference, and social network exchange focusing on new technologies in the music industry. MCCA is partnering with Sitarian Corporation to launch the event.

“We’re also looking at people who are trying to launch events,” Storella said. “Because of the way our model works, it’s lower risk for us and for a company looking to launch an event, so we’re trying to focus on new events that are trying to break into the industry.”

MCCA is also being careful not to encroach on its current clients’ territories.

“That’s one of the things we are paying attention to,” Storella said. “We do not want to compete with our clients. … We’ve already had instances of people coming to us looking to host events, and we’ve had to say no because they’re too close to some of our clients’ events.”

The convention authority, which was recently in the news assuring meeting planners it is committed to their clients’ safety and security following a rash of credit-card thefts affecting meeting attendees in the Boston area, is not the first U.S. convention center to produce its own events, according to MeetingsNet. The Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans produces two annual events, including the Farm-to-Table International Symposium, which it produces in partnership with the Louisiana Restaurant Association.

For other convention authorities interested in developing a similar business model, Storella advised them to be flexible and allow events to move. For example, create an East Coast/West Coast version or an East Coast/West Coast rotation every other year.

“A part of what we’re asking for is that Boston is where we launch [an event] and [that]it’s always part of a rotation,” Storella said. “Events are successful when they have the ability to move, so you have to make some allowances.”

(MCCA press photo)

Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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