NEW BEDFORD — A little more than a year ago, Mayor Jon Mitchell spoke at an event which celebrated the 10th Anniversary of the Fall River/New Bedford Housing Partnership.
The ceremony was held in neither city but in Dartmouth.
As Mitchell exited the event back to his car he wondered out loud why New Bedford didn’t offer a space for conventions.
By the middle of this month, the city should have an answer to that question.
The city is requesting proposals for consulting services for market analysis and a feasibility study for a convention center/sports arena in New Bedford.
“The city has long had inadequate conference space and we’d like to find a way to stand up and say people should be coming here to have discussions,” Mitchell said.
The idea, Mitchell said, revolves around a convention center rather than a sports arena. Since a study was going to be conducted, he said the thought was to include any information on a sports arena.
“The arena, that’s a periphery thing,” Mitchell said. “We’re probably not at that point. It’s just in the interest of completeness.”
The information from the analysis would cover any potential location within the city, although Mitchell acknowledged most convention centers wind up in a city’s downtown.
The mayor also withheld any speculation regarding any potential size until after the analysis is complete.
“Cities by definition are places where people gather with greater density than they do elsewhere,” Mitchell said. “The more we can give people the reasons to come into the city, the more we’ll benefit in ways that we frankly might not fully appreciate now.”
Mitchell pointed to the need for a large gathering spot with a capacity of 500 people or more for conferences regarding fishing and offshore wind.
New Bedford has claimed the nation’s most valuable fishing port for 17 consecutive years, however, Mitchell couldn’t remember the last time the city hosted a New England Fisheries Council Management Meeting.
He drove to Newport, Rhode Island on Tuesday to speak up for clammers. Mitchell envisions a much shorter commute in the future.
“Fisheries Management Council meeting should happen, frankly, annually in New Bedford, if not more frequently,” Mitchell said.
The notion extends to other industries. While New Bedford owns a stronghold on the fishing industry, a convention center would also boost efforts to make way for new industries like offshore wind, Mitchell said.
“We’ve done a lot of work there but if we can’t bring them to the city readily for important conferences, then I fear we're going to lose out. That’s the rational.”
Follow Michael Bonner on Twitter @MikeBBonnerSCT