MA Spotlight: David Gibbons

Meeting Demands

David Gibbons is executive director of the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority (MCCA), whose mission is to generate significant regional economic activity by attracting conventions, tradeshows, and other events to its world-class facilities. In 2018, the MCCA hosted 315 events at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center (BCEC) and the Hynes Convention Center with 800,000 attendees, generating 646,000 hotel room nights and $870 million in economic impact. We spoke to David about the state of the convention industry heading into 2020.

Tell us about your career, and how you came to lead the MCCA.

I have spent most of my career in the hospitality industry, from early days in restaurants and nightclubs, to luxury hotels in New York, Boston and Virginia. For the last four years, I have had the privilege to serve as Executive Director of the MCCA and its current portfolio of properties, including the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center (BCEC), the John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center, The Lawn On D, the Boston Common Parking Garage and the MassMutual Center in Springfield.

The convention business is an integral part of the state’s travel and tourism industry. Broadly speaking, why do conventioneers want to come to Massachusetts?

We have tremendous advantages in our industry and none is bigger than the City of Boston. It is a premier global destination for business and leisure travel and a successful convention is usually a combination of both to make a memorable experience. We benefit greatly from the fact that the most desirable shows in our industry mirror the strengths of Boston—Education, Health Care, Life Sciences and Finance. We like to work with events that integrate into many levels of our fabric, not just to fill this building but to touch our business community, our academic community and to experience our great hospitality. The DNA of New England resonates with many users. We have a combination of location, deep capital markets, and a brain trust second to none. We are authentic, you know where you are and why you are here when you come to Boston.

What are some of the signature conventions coming to the BCEC in 2020?

We currently have over 250 events scheduled in 2020 throughout our Boston venues. These include annual and repeat events booked by longtime clients, as well as new and exciting shows for the MCCA. Some notable events taking place in 2020 include the New England International Auto Show in January, the Progressive New England Boat Show, Penny Arcade Expo East, Seafood Expo North America/Seafood Processing North America 2020, Liveworx, and Sibos which will bring thousands of attendees from the financial services industry to the BCEC in October. We are also honored to be hosting the NAACP’s 111th National Convention at the BCEC in July. I would urge your readers to visit the MCCA’s website and check our calendar for a complete list of upcoming events.

Tell us about the plans underway to expand the BCEC, and how these plans fit into MCCA’s long-term economic development strategy.

For more than two years, the MCCA has been involved in a process to optimize its portfolio of assets via a comprehensive feasibility and master planning study. Our findings recommend a $500 million expansion of the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center (BCEC) in South Boston that includes 100,000sf of exhibition hall, adding a second ballroom sized 65,000sf and more than 44,000sf of meeting space. These enhancements will enable the BCEC to create more predictable patterns of activity for our stakeholders, and expand our calendar of available dates by having the ability to run consecutive shows instead of the current one-in, one-out model.

The key funding source for the expansion will be realized by a sale of the Hynes Convention Center in the Back Bay. The proceeds of the sale would be combined with additional money from the Convention Center Fund to pay for the expansion, importantly, without requiring an additional bond. The project would also remit approximately 12 acres behind the BCEC to the City of Boston, the original aggregator and purchaser of the parcels. Boston is a premier convention destination and we are focused on making the long-term investments and improvements to ensure our leadership position continues long into the future.

The MassMutual Center, a state-of-the-art meeting facility downtown Springfield, is part of that city’s growing success. How do you program the facility to maximize use throughout the year?

At the MassMutual Center, we have a two-pronged approach to maximizing the use of the facility throughout the year. With a unique setup of both an arena and convention center under one roof, we are able to deliver exceptional experiences to a variety of clients and guests.

In the arena, we build our calendar around our two primary hockey tenants – the Springfield Thunderbirds and the AIC Yellow Jackets – while attracting concerts, comedians, and family shows such as WWE, Disney on Ice, the Harlem Globetrotters and more. In the Convention Center, we have a dedicated sales and marketing team that works hand-in-hand with the Greater Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau to build on relationships with local stakeholders and hotels.

We have collaborated strongly with MGM Springfield to bring high-level events to the MassMutual Center including Stevie Wonder, the American Hockey League All-Star Game, and Aerosmith. As we generate a robust event calendar each year, we continue to engage local partners such as the Basketball Hall of Fame to generate additional citywide opportunities to maximize our Economic Impact in Western Massachusetts.

Thank you David.