BOSTON (State House News Service) - Soon after the twin bombings that brought the Boston Marathon to a halt, the nearby Hynes Convention Center served as a temporary evidence repository. Later that week, as Gov. Deval Patrick asked people to remain home, the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center hosted an international convention that broke an attendance record.
That the show went on and at a historic attendance level is evidence of the widespread feeling that the attack should not sink plans, according to the man in charge of the city's two convention centers.
"What I'm seeing both locally and in the industry is a sentiment of defiance in terms of not wanting to have these kinds of acts define their behavior," Massachusetts Convention Center Authority Executive Director Jim Rooney told the News Service.
On April 15, with the marathon underway on Boylston Street, the Hynes was transitioning from a sports and fitness exposition to a convention of ambulatory care surgeons.
After the blasts, the convention center was evacuated, and the move-in for the ambulatory care surgeons was pushed back until the next morning. That Monday afternoon, one of the conference rooms in the Hynes served as a place for law enforcement to deposit evidence from the scene before operations moved to a nearby hotel.
"It became a secure site," Rooney said. He said he had not seen it.
With two convention halls in Boston, the MCCA trades on the city's reputation to lure associations and expos from around the world. Asked if the bombings had changed anyone's mind, Rooney said no.
"I don't think so," Rooney said. He said the capture of the two suspects had put to rest fears of any other threats, and people in the industry did not want the bombers to dictate their actions.
On Friday, April 19, the region tensed up once again with bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev at large, much of Watertown locked down and residents of other Metro Boston cities and towns asked to stay behind locked doors.
At the BCEC, in the South Boston Seaport, Experimental Biology – a meeting of international scientists of anatomy, biochemistry, pharmacology and other related fields – was set to kick off.
"Their big arrival day was that Friday, the shelter in place day. They set an all-time attendance record," Rooney said. With scientists arriving at Logan International Airport for the conference there was little opportunity to shelter in place, as the governor asked, Rooney said. About 14,600 people attended the conference, an Experimental Biology record.
That Friday the trauma surgeons had been planning to hold a reception at the Harvard Club, located on Commonwealth Avenue, and after the shelter request it was moved to the Hynes, nearby the hotels where they were staying, Rooney said. The Hynes, which looks out onto what was then a crime scene along Boylston, used back entrances, Rooney said.
The lock-down request did put the brakes on one convention. The Comic Con, a gathering of comic book artists and readers, which was set to move into the Hynes that Friday, was canceled later in the day. According to the organization's website, it is rescheduled for the Seaport World Trade Center, on Aug. 3 and 4.
Rooney said he spent the week of April 15 "communicating to the industry," and he is now telling people "it's relatively back to normal." While Rooney said people were determined to not let the bombings divert plans, the event has led to increased security at the convention halls, including more sweeps by bomb-sniffing dogs.
"What we need to continue to do is just be diligent," Rooney said.
Copyright State House News Service