McCormick Place Is Ready to Light Up With Events Again

June 22, 2021
McCormick Place Is Ready to Light Up With Events Again

Peter Eelman, vice president and CXO at AMT — The Association For Manufacturing Technology, strode up to the stage at Arie Crown Theater at McCormick Place. “We are coming back,” he said. “Let that soak in for a moment.”

While he was specifically referring to the International Manufacturing Technology Show powered by AMT, occurring Sept. 12-17, Eelman may as well have been speaking for Chicago’s trade show industry.

Shut for 14 months due to COVID, McCormick Place officials and several returning organizers gathered in May to celebrate the return of business. The event was also a showcase of new offerings the convention center has installed to prepare for the brave new world. The highlight is a 4,000-seat hybrid studio powered by Freeman that served as the setting for the press conference. There are two other virtual studios available on-campus.

“We need to continue to be flexible and see what is on the horizon,” said David Causton, general manager of McCormick Place.

What’s on the horizon is a substantial number of events, including the famed Chicago Auto Show, to fill out the 2021 calendar before a packed schedule in 2022 and 2023, featuring many returning events like the Sweet and Snacks Expo that were forced to relocate this year.

Citing what she described as “Hollywood-grade technology,” Larita Clark, CEO of the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority that oversees Chicago’s vast convention and expo properties, said the site is capable for all needs. That includes pumping money and momentum into the Second City’s economy.

“We didn’t take a single day of the past 14 months and let it go to waste,” she said. “We are returning to business as usual”

With the reopening of McCormick Place, entirely GBAC Star certified, and the adjacent Marriott Marquis Chicago, the task of hiring staff is ramping up. Clark said 970 full-time employees will be back to work by June, and within a year, that number will nearly double. And each hire at McCormick Place represents another five job opportunities in the local hospitality industry, she added.

More than 120 events are on the books between July 2021 and December 2022, 47 of which are considered major. Economic impact is estimated to be $2.35 billion with nearly 2 million attendees coming to town. 

FABTECH added to the good news, recently announcing plans for a return Sept. 13-16, making it the first large-scale manufacturing event at McCormick Place since the pandemic. It brings in $73 million delegation spending to Chicago, according to Ed Youdell, president and CEO of the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association, International. More than 30,000 attendees are expected.

Other key events coming to Chicago include:

RSNA Vice President Steven Drew said 10,400 abstracts have already been submitted for the late fall event. “That’s testimony to the interest in the meeting,” he said.

Likewise, IMTS is looking bullish for September. Eelman reported that more than 1 million square feet of exhibition space has already been sold and they are expecting 130,000 attendees.

“It’s been a struggle, but we can see light at the end of the tunnel and the light is coming soon,” Eelman said.


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Overview: The award-winning Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) goes the extra mile to make every day extraordinary by offering customer service excellence and industry-leading partnerships. From their dedicated in-house Rigging team to their robust Exhibitor Services, The Center of Hospitality brings your imagination to life by helping you host unforgettable meetings and events. With more than 2 million square feet of exhibit space, world-class services and a dream destination, we are committed to making even the most ambitious conventions a reality. In October 2023, the Orange County Board of County Commissioners voted to approve allocating Tourist Development Tax funding for the $560 million Phase 5A completion of the OCCC. The Convention Way Grand Concourse project will include enhancements to the North-South Building, featuring an additional 60,000 square feet of meeting space, an 80,000- square-foot ballroom and new entry to the North-South Building along Convention Way. “We are thrilled to begin work on completing our North-South Building which will allow us to meet the growing needs of our clients,” said OCCC Executive Director Mark Tester. “As an economic driver for the community, this project will provide the Center with connectivity and meeting space to host more events and continue to infuse the local economy with new money and expanding business opportunities.” Amenities: The Center of Hospitality goes above and beyond by offering world-class customer service and industry-leading partnerships. From the largest convention center Wi-Fi network to custom LAN/WAN design, the Center takes pride in enhancing exhibitor and customer experience.  The OCCC is the exclusive provider of electricity (24-hour power at no additional cost), aerial rigging and lighting, water, natural gas and propane, compressed air, and cable TV services. Convenience The Center is at the epicenter of the destination, with an abundance of hotels, restaurants, and attractions within walking distance. Pedestrian bridges connect both buildings to more than 5,200 rooms and is within a 15-minute drive from the Orlando International Airport. The convenience of the location goes hand-in-hand with top notch service to help meet an event’s every need. Gold Key Members The OCCC’s Gold Key Members represent the best of the best when it comes to exceptional service and exclusive benefits for clients, exhibitors and guests. The Center’s Gold Key memberships with Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Orlando and Walt Disney World greatly enhance meeting planner and attendee experiences offering world-renowned venues, immersive experiences and creative resources for their events. OCCC Events: This fiscal year, the OCCC is projected to host 168 events, 1.7 million attendees, and $2.9 billion in economic impact.  The Center’s top five events during their 2022-2023 fiscal year included:  AAU Jr. National Volleyball Championships 2023 200,000 Attendees $257 Million in Economic Impact MEGACON 2023 160,000 Attendees $205 Million in Economic Impact Open Championship Series 2023 69,500 Attendees $89 Million in Economic Impact Sunshine Classic 2023 42,000 Attendees $54 Million in Economic Impact Premiere Orlando 2023 42,000 Attendees $108 Million in Economic Impact