Detroit's Cobo Center Moves Into Newest Construction Phase

May 28, 2012

Detroit’s Cobo Center $221 million renovation and expansion has marked an important milestone in stage one of Phase III of the five-year project, with the onset of construction of the three-story atrium that links the main floor of the venue with a new entrance facing the Detroit River.

"Today's the day when the caterpillar officially enters its cocoon and begins its transformation into a butterfly," said Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority Board Chair Larry Alexander.

He added, "When complete, this area will be the most visually dramatic and breathtaking manifestation of physical change to the facility."

The atrium will be completed in time for the North American International Auto Show, the venue’s biggest event, on tap Jan. 14-27 next year.

Internal demolition on the former Cobo Arena is complete, and a new glass exterior, a 40,000 square foot ballroom and 25,000 sq. ft. of meeting space will take its place, scheduled to be completed May 2013.

The construction has not disrupted normal operations at the center, according to officials from SMG, the venue management company that took over the reins at the venue in October 2010.

Thom Connors, regional vice president and 37-year veteran with SMG, came aboard as general manager.

“Attendance was up this year for our two largest shows, the North American International Auto Show and Autorama,” Connors said.

He added, “The construction areas have been successfully isolated from events, and we are open for business.”

SMG has had several wins since it took over management of the center:

-   The auto show announced an agreement with SMG for a five-year deal to keep the event in Cobo, which is expected to pump an estimated $1.75 billion into the Metro Detroit community.

-   The state of Michigan awarded Cobo Center a Green Venues Michigan certification. The Detroit Shoppe featuring made-in-Michigan

-   Detroit sports team merchandise opened on the concourse, with all proceeds going to local area charities.

-   The number of events and visitors to Cobo Center doubled from FY 2011 – 2012, while operating expense was reduced by $1.3 million because of reduction in energy usage.

“It’s professional management, it’s better service, it’s better sales, so we’ve increased the level of activity,” said Patrick Bero, CEO and chief financial officer of the DRCFA.

In addition, summer bookings doubled since last year, with events on the calendar that include the Detroit Book Expo, the National Veterans Administration Small Business Conference and Expo and the TEAMS Conference & Expo.

Visitors to the center have given it high marks as well, giving Cobo an overall facility rating of 97.6 percent, or excellent, in the first quarter of 2012.

“I think that’s now become the new standard and we’re challenged to maintain it throughout the construction,” Connors said.

He added, “All three stages of Phase III of the Cobo Center renovation will be completed for our upcoming (American Society of Association Executives) Annual Meeting & Exposition in the summer of 2015. In the meantime, we have all exhibit space available and full use of meeting rooms up to current capacity.”

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