Bookings at Detroit's Cobo Center Reach 20-Year High

Cobo Center

Detroit's Cobo Center convention center has signed several new, multi-year event contracts, which together have made 2014 a banner year for the facility, venue manager SMG announced last week.

According to SMG, Cobo Center's multi-year contract trend began in 2011, when the North American International Auto Show (NAIS) signed a five-year contract. The latest bookings include the co-located International Autobody Congress & Exposition (NACE) and Congress of Automotive Repair and Service (CARS) shows, which will take place at Cobo next year; the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), whose "Big M" event also will take place at Cobo next year; the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), which has signed a five-year agreement to host its World Congress at Cobo; and Shell-Eco Marathon, whose energy-efficient vehicle competition will begin a three-year run at Cobo Center in 2015.

"Each new season at Cobo Center has realized a significant rise in bookings," Larry Alexander, chairman of the Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority (DRCFA) and president of the Detroit Metro Convention Visitors Bureau (DMCVB), said in a statement. "Couple that with sound fiscal management and strict energy conservation measures, and you have the formula for our current success."

While future bookings are up, current-year performance also is strong, thanks in large part to renovations currently taking place at the facility. According to Thom Connors, SMG regional vice president and Cobo Center general manager, Cobo Center realized a 65 percent increase in the number of summer events this year, this with 26 shows in 2013 from June through August, and 65 shows in 2014 during the same period. Operations likewise realized year-over-year revenue gains in Internet sales (55 percent), food and beverage commission (56 percent), rent (14 percent) and parking (38 percent). The overall total revenue increase was 34 percent this summer over last.

"The transformation of Cobo Center is palpable, and the new high-tech event spaces are bringing excitement to the shows," Connors said. "Add to that the fact that Detroit has once again become a strong destination due to regional member populations for engineering, manufacturing, automotive, and medical shows, and you create an environment for shows in these sectors to flourish."


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