Boston, Friday, March 15, 2012 - A 115,000-volt transformer on Scotia Street behind the Hilton Hotel exploded and caught fire just before 6:30 Tuesday night (March 13), causing a power outage that eventually spread from the Back Bay to the adjacent Theater District, Chinatown, Kenmore Square and the South End. The massive three-alarm fire in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood sent plumes of black smoke billowing into the air. Although no one was hurt in the fire or the blast, hundreds of people, including AAHPERD convention attendees, were evacuated from nearby hotels and restaurants.
Over the course of the next two days, convention attendees staying at nearby hotels experienced a variety of circumstances ranging from emergency lighting during the blackout to brownout conditions at the Sheraton and full electric service at the Hilton. Guests staying at the Sheraton Hotel were treated to free breakfasts and boxed lunches in exchange for their patience and tolerance, and absence of hot water.
The Hayes Convention Center was also affected, leading to the cancelation of convention registration and other events scheduled for that site. Some sessions at the adjacent Sheraton Hotel went on as scheduled, a few convention center sessions were moved to the Sheraton, but the convention exhibits, with 300-plus booths never opened. Some exhibitors were able to setup makeshift displays on the second floor of the Sheraton Hotel. Some convention attendees picked up freebees and made a few purchases from exhibitors that setup in the Prudential Center outside of the Hayes Convention Center.
The event that seems to have ended the convention occurred Thursday afternoon (March 15) around 4 p.m. Just hours after NStar, the area’s electric company, reportedly restored power to the Back Bay area, three manhole covers outside the Colonnade Hotel on Huntington Avenue exploded. The explosions and subsequent fires were witnessed by several convention attendees, but luckily, no one was injured. NSTAR says a power surge, caused by the sudden high demand of restoring power, overheated cables underneath the street, causing them to fail and the manholes to explode.
Within a couple of hours of that event, AAHPERD officially announced the convention cancelation stating, "New safety concerns, inside and outside of the hotels, has forced us to make this decision." The announcement also thanked attendees for their "resilience and positive attitude and desire to congregate, learn, and network. . . . Please do not let this unforeseen and uncontrollable situation change your spirit and passion for your profession, desire to learn, and support of AAHPERD and one another. We will have so much to celebrate next year in Charlotte."
In the announcement canceling the convention, AAHPERD promised to send registrants information regarding registration refunds. The refund information will also be posted on the national organization's website at www.aahperd.org.
Many convention speakers have loaded their handouts on the www.aahperd.org website. Members can download convention handouts on the Program and Speakers page.
The convention’s cancelation also canceled the AAHPERD Alliance Assembly and its highly anticipated vote on the Board of Governor’s plan to move toward one national organization focused on comprehensive physical education and physical activity. At this time, NCAAHPERD has no information on the Board of Govenors plans or what actions they will take as a result of the weeks events and cancelation of the Alliance Assembly.