while the growth of the South Boston exhibition hall is undeniable, much of that business has come at the expense of Boston’s other convention hall, the John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center. Since 2006, five of the Hynes’s largest events have relocated to the newer, bigger hall, shifting visitors across town instead of bringing new ones from elsewhere.
And in those past five years, the number of hotel nights from visitors to the two halls combined is up only 9 percent, according to data provided by the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority. The new convention center alone was projected to have increased hotel nights by 18 percent in the same period, according to a 1997 study commissioned by a state-appointed panel, which also predicted the Hynes would not be hurt by the larger convention center.
Likewise, we should keep an eye on how Music City Center competes with or compliments both Nashville's older convention center and Gaylord. MCC was sold as a product that would attract even more business than the latter two facilities were getting rather than supplanting them as destinations of choice.
One other thing to watch for is whether the recession of the the past few years is used as an excuse for unrealized expectations. The Mayor's Office used the prospect of beating the recession as a justification for building a new convention center. In Boston convention center supporters lambast critics of their latest plan to expand the bigger convention center by using the recession as an excuse. If Music City Center business erodes growth of either one of the two existing centers, will the Mayor's Office likewise use the recession as cover?
Finally, keep in mind this sobering reality as the Music City Center is being built: the total number of hotel room nights in 2010 in Boston was less than half of the predicted number advertised when the South Boston exhibition hall was under construction in 1997. Supporters explained that the pre-construction numbers were "overly optimistic" and were adjusted later. That reality doesn't bode well for Nashville's future, but you can't blame those of us who questioned the project and who insisted that the MCC projections themselves were overly optimistic.