Portland – You Blew it!
Plans to build the largest conference and meeting center in Maine were released yesterday by Rock Row, the developer of the yet to be named venue. It is expected to cost $600 million and to be built on 110-acres of land in Westbrook.
Furthermore, ASM Global, the world’s leading producer of large-scale events and entertainment experiences – is working with Rock Row on initial planning. Some of the planned details are as follows:
110,000 square feet of divisible conference and event space including a 35,000 sq. foot exhibit hall; pre-function space, ballroom/meeting space and an enclosed performance space with a retractable wall that opens up to lawn seating for concerts; attracting more than 200 corporate meetings and events annually; more than 8,200 guests at full capacity; and an attached hotel and parking garage.
The expected cost for the new four-season facility and parking garage is approximately $75 million (not including hotel) with a targeted construction start date of 2023. (Am not sure why the first cost amount above comes in at $600 million.)
When fully open, the facility is anticipated to bring 343 new full-time jobs to the region – totaling an annual average of $13.2 million in wages.
Maine is one of the only states in America that does not have a major facility that can host large-scale corporate events and top performances. Currently, the largest single-room meeting facility in the state has a capacity of approximately 1,500 guests.
Greater Portland is one of only four (4) Metropolitan Stastical Areas in the United States that does not have a convention center. Currently large employees such as IDEXX (the City of Westbrook’s largest employer) have to leave the state to hold high-capacity events and conferences.
“This is an idea whose time has come,” said Michael Foley, Mayor of the city of Westbrook. “As the premier conference and event center north of Boston, Rock Row’s plan will help bring our city, region and state to the next level of services and hospitality. It’s a resource that is very much needed.”
For years, representatives of Portland’s tourism industry have lobbied the Portland city council for a comparable facility. Non-profits as well as for profits have repeatedly testified at city meetings on the need for such a venue based on the number of inquiries received by them. MHN.com has attended city committee meetings where representatives of the tourist industry have presented testimony in support of such a facility. However, because these lobbying efforts die in committee and never reach city council level for consideration, members of the public may not be aware of such efforts. Such a complex has always been a logical asset for Maine’s largest city. With all of Portland’s restaurants, museums, and unique waterfront adventures it’s a natural for such a complex. It’s illogical it didn’t happen in Portland. Portland leadership is often not very logical, though.
For whatever excuse, the city of Portland blew it! Congratulations to the leaders of Westbrook for their smarts!