McCormick Place Expansion Opens on Budget and Ahead of Schedule

HIL ANDERSON, SENIOR EDITOR
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Chicago, IL – Chicago held the grand opening gala for McCormick Place West on August 2 at the same time the state and city were laying the groundwork for a new round of hotel construction around the convention center.

Prior to the expansion, McCormick Place was already the nation’s largest exhibition center, at 2.2 million square feet of prime exhibit space. The new West building added an additional 470,000 square feet of exhibit space, a 100,000 square-foot ballroom, 61 new meeting rooms and a rooftop terrace. The $882 million project was completed on budget and an impressive eight months ahead of schedule.

McCormick Place, now with  2.6 million square feet of prime exhibit space, is Number One on Trade Show Executive’s Millionaire’s Club, a ranking of convention centers with more than one million square feet of prime exhibit space.

The Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA) board placed a proposal on its September meeting agenda to consider formulating a plan to condemn a block adjacent to the new building that would be razed to make way for a 1,500-room hotel and possible additional parking space. The hotel would be in addition to the planned 600-room expansion of the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place.

A pair of measures in the Illinois Legislature would authorize the MPEA to restructure its long-term borrowing by increasing its borrowing limit and refinancing existing debt in order to pay for the new hotel projects. Board officials have said McCormick Place lags behind competing cities in the number of rooms clustered around the convention center.

“The exhibitions industry is an incredible asset to the city and the state,” said MPEA Board Chairman Ted Tetzlaff. “But we must protect this asset even as we grow it. We are in the business of continuous improvement.”

McCormick Place West already has 75 events booked, and MPEA officials have said the building will be an ideal venue for medical meetings, which is a sector McCormick Place is hotly pursuing. In addition, the building received LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. In particular, the hall has high-efficiency heating and cooling systems and is designed to conserve water.

About 500 business and civic leaders from the Windy City had plenty of elbowroom as they joined Mayor Richard M. Daley for the first official look at the building. The Chinese acrobatic troupe Cirque Shanghai provided the entertainment for the crowd.

Reach Juan Ochoa, CEO of the MPEA, at (312) 791-7500 or jochoa@mpea.com; Dave Causton at (312) 791-7000 or dcauston@mpea.com