Rooney not sold on Convention Center plans

The head of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce questioned the process around the proposed sale of the Hynes Convention Center and expansion of the convention center in South Boston and echoed U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch in saying he's not yet sold on the governor's plan.

James Rooney, who ran the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority and championed a previous Boston Convention and Exhibition Center expansion plan, said on NECN that he's received calls from elected officials and business leaders who were taken aback by Gov. Charlie Baker's new plan to consolidate Boston's convention space.

"I've received calls from elected officials, from even members of the board of the convention center authority, employees, people in the industry around the country saying 'what's going on?' and I don't know the answer because I don't know the details of this plan either," Rooney said. "So, it’s hard to know whether this is a good idea or not."

The MCCA board voted last week to authorize the sale of the Hynes, pending legislative approval, to begin work towards a $500 million expansion of the BCEC and to return 12 acres of land in the seaport to the city of Boston.

"There really has been no public dialogue process at all around this. It kind of came out of nowhere. And I think back to when we built the new convention center, the BCEC in South Boston, we had over 300 public meetings with the community, with the hospitality and tourism industry, with elected officials. When we were going through the expansion analysis in 2012-2014, similarly, hundreds of meetings, received public dialogue," Rooney said. "This was just announced."

Baker issued a statement from Boston Mayor Marty Walsh the day he announced his plans. "

As Boston continues to serve as a regional hub for economic activity and growth, the state’s proposal presents a new opportunity to expand the Convention Center and bring a significant piece of land back to Boston, benefiting the South Boston Waterfront and city overall," Walsh said. "I look forward to discussing this proposal with the Legislature and staying engaged through this process as it moves forward."