BALTIMORE (PNS) — For the time being, the Baltimore Convention Center — nearly 422,000 square feet of space and 50 meeting rooms in the heart of a thriving downtown — is mostly vacant. But beginning 128 days from Wednesday, thousands of Presbyterians will do their best to fill up the mammoth meeting facility.
In Baltimore this week for both combined and separate meetings of the Committee on the Office of General Assembly and the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board, about 20 Presbyterians toured the convention center Wednesday with an eye toward the 224th General Assembly, which runs June 20-27. Deb Davies, the Office of the General Assembly’s manger of Meeting Services, and Ali Testa, the convention center’s convention services manager, led the tour and answered questions.
The last time Baltimore hosted the General Assembly was 1991. Commissioners to the 203rd Assembly elected the Rev. Dr. Herbert D. Valentine as moderator.
Seven hotels have been contracted to provide rooms for commissioners, staff and others attending the Assembly. Each of the seven is in close proximity to the convention center — some of them connected to the convention center by sky bridges.
No other groups are scheduled at the convention center during the week in June Presbyterians will be there, and it’s not likely another group will book the convention center during those eight days at this late date, Testa said.
For the most part, commissioners to the 224th Assembly will meet in the newer portion of the convention center, which was added in 1996 to a facility that opened in 1979. Plenaries and worship will be held in cavernous Swing Hall with two adjoining exhibit halls, a total of more than 90,000 square feet that can be divided.
General Assembly committees will meet on the convention center’s second floor. That’s in the older portion of the convention center, where all of the 1991 Assembly business was completed.
Since opening its doors in August 1979, the Baltimore Convention Center has been the catalyst for economic growth and tourism in the region. Construction of the facility preceded Harborplace, a festival marketplace, and the National Aquarium.
The Baltimore Convention Center hosts more than 140 events per year and annually welcomes more than 500,000 attendees.
by Mike Ferguson, Presbyterian News Service