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Macworld attendees may have a neighbor

The annual Macworld Expo may be a shadow of its former self, but the extra room left by its shrinking attendance may not be empty.

Officials from the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority said yesterday they have reached a tentative agreement with SAP Worldwide, a Waldorf, Germany-based business software company that plans to hold its SAP Midyear corporate meeting inside the new Boston Convention & Exhibition Center in South Boston July 12 to 14. These dates coincide with the center's marquee opening event, the Macworld Conference & Expo, meaning the two would share space in the massive building.

"Hosting both SAP and Macworld together is a great example of the versatility and size" of the new convention center, said James Rooney, executive director of the convention authority. "Shows like this are a good indicator that tech shows are coming out of the doldrums of the last few years."

Officials from SAP Worldwide could not be reached to comment, but a spokeswoman for the convention authority said a contract for the three-day, 1,200-attendee meeting should be signed within a month. The SAP meeting would take up most of the convention center's meeting space -- 50 out of 82 meeting rooms -- while Macworld will take up most of the exhibit floor plus 25 meeting rooms, she said.

SAP conventioneers would generate about 3,600 hotel room-nights, she said.

Word of the SAP booking comes after the announcement of a funding deal for a new convention center hotel, plus reports that the convention authority is bidding for a large Microsoft convention that would be held in 2006. That convention would attract up to 20,000 people to Boston over 10 days, the authority said.

After the authority's monthly board meeting yesterday, Rooney said the pace of bookings at the facility, which had been dragging, is showing signs of quickening.

There are now 40 "definite" bookings for conventions -- those with a contract signed for either space at the convention center or blocks of hotel rooms -- during the facility's "ramp-up" period between this year and 2010. Six more groups are classified as "contract pending," Rooney said.

Keith Reed can be reached at

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