McCormick Place Unveils Phase II Reforms

22 Nov

McCormick Place officials recently unveiled Phase II reforms for the convention center complex designed to cut costs and provide greater flexibility for those doing business at the Chicago venue.

This latest round of reforms is part of a series of changes that will be phased in as a result of the historic legislation passed by the Illinois General Assembly in May.

“Our Phase I initiatives drove down costs and offered greater flexibility to our customers and exhibitors, allowing them to do much of the booth work themselves,” said David Causton, general manager of McCormick Place. “Phase II is more about long-term stability, additional changes and new customer initiatives.”

As part of the second round of reforms, a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a management company to run McCormick Place was released Sept. 15. Prospective companies toured the facilities on Oct. 5 and interested parties were to submit first phase proposals by Nov. 9. A short list will be developed by Dec. 14 and the final selection for the new management company will be made by April 29 of next year.

McCormick Place is currently owned and operated by the city’s Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA). In addition, completion of the refinancing of MPEA’s debt will provide greater financial stability for the convention center, while funding an expansion of the on-site Hyatt Regency McCormick Place Hotel.

The venue borrowed $1.1 billion in a bond deal, with the bulk of the money funding the hotel’s expansion. This includes the addition of between 400 and 450 rooms, which are expected to help subsidize the project, in addition to a plan that will renovate the Hyatt’s existing 800 rooms.

TVS Design will assist in preparing the design and development documents. Construction is expected to begin in early 2012 and the hotel expansion to be completed by December 2014.

In addition, $200 million of the funds will replenish the convention center’s reserve balance, while part of the money will be allocated to cover operating deficits.

The convention center’s new customer initiatives include the immediate availability of free WiFi, which is available throughout the venue, including all common hallways, exhibit halls, and meeting rooms. With 2.6 million sq. ft. of exhibit space, McCormick Place is the largest convention center in the U.S. to provide this amenity.

“In Phase I, our work was focused on driving down show organizer and exhibitor costs. We hadn’t addressed show attendees. People want to check e-mail while out of the office. It’s a convenience factor,” Causton said.

The Phase II reforms were unveiled in a webinar hosted by the International Center for Exhibitor and Event Marketing and hosted by Causton. It was attended by more than 100 companies and organizations, including exhibit managers, event marketers, organizers, suppliers and tradeshow press.

A 23-member Advisory Council has been created to oversee and advise
the implementation of McCormick Place’s reforms. The Council includes show organizers, exhibitors, labor, service and exhibitor contractors and MPEA and the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau (CCTB) management.

According to the CCTB, the McCormick Place reforms have already resulted in nearly a dozen tradeshows either recommitting to host their shows in Chicago or committing to bring their business to Chicago for the first time. Collectively, those commitments represent more than $1.6 billion in estimated direct expenditures for Chicago during the next decade.

“These Phase II reforms will provide even greater cost savings for our show organizers, exhibitors and attendees,” said Causton. “We received positive feedback about our Phase I reforms and anticipate that our existing and
prospective customers will welcome this next round of reforms, as well.” — Lisa White

Interviewed for this article:  David Causton, (312) 791-7000.

 

 

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