Chicago's McCormick Place Unveils Phase II Convention Reforms

Following the May passage of historic convention reform legislation in Chicago, officials at the city's McCormick Place convention center have unveiled a second phase of reforms designed to cut costs and increase flexibility for conventions and trade shows coming to the Windy City, McCormick Place announced last month.

"These are substantive changes that allow us to radically reform and improve how we conduct our convention business in Chicago," said Jim Reilly, trustee of the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA), the entity that owns and operates McCormick Place. "Our present and future customers will undoubtedly be the biggest beneficiaries of these reforms in terms of cost-savings and more flexibility."

As part of its Phase II reforms, McCormick Place will begin offering free Wi-Fi throughout the convention center, including all common hallways, exhibit halls and meeting rooms, making it the largest U.S. facility of its kind to offer such service. It also will reduce rates in its surface parking lot, allow companies to compete to provide electrical services for trade shows, and allow exhibitors to bring outside food into the convention center for consumption by employees.

Finally, the facility has announced plans to hire a management company to run McCormick Place— a request for proposals was released in September, and a decision will be made by April — and to help finance an expansion of the onsite Hyatt Regency McCormick Place Hotel, scheduled for completion in December 2014.

"These Phase II reforms will provide even greater cost savings for our show organizers, exhibitors and attendees," said McCormick Place General Manager David Causton. "We received much positive feedback about our Phase I reforms and anticipate that our existing and prospective customers will welcome this next round of reforms, as well."

Implemented on Aug. 1, 2010, McCormick Place's Phase I convention reforms included: standardized and expanded straight-time, overtime and double-time windows; expanded exhibitor rights; changes to the in-house electrical contractor; a new automobile and small utility vehicle policy; reduced crew sizes; and reduced food prices.

According to the Chicago Convention & Tourism Board, Phase I reforms already have resulted in nearly a dozen trade shows either re-committing to host their events in Chicago or committing to bring their business to Chicago for the first time. Collectively, it said, those commitments represent more than $1.6 billion in estimated direct expenditures for Chicago during the next decade.