McCormick Place's broken heart is on the mend.
The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society announced Monday that it plans to bring its 2015 and 2019 conventions back to Chicago in the future.
Mayor Richard Daley called the announcement "great news."
The Chicago-based medical trade group rotates its annual meetings from city to city. It yanked its 2012 convention from Chicago, complaining that McCormick Place charged too much for electrical services. The 2012 show landed in Las Vegas.
In 2009, tens of thousands of people attended the medical trade show in Chicago. Those visitors pumped an estimated $55 million into the local economy.
"The city has made dramatic progress in a very short time," said the organization's CEO, Stephen Lieber. "Savings are running at least in the neighborhood of 25 percent or greater."
At times it was difficult to determine which angered exhibitors more: exorbitant fees, or what struck some as absurd rules which prevented them from setting up their own displays, or even plugging in a light.
"It's not the salaries, it's the work rules that kill you," said Daley. "If it wasn't for the changes, this place would be empty."
State lawmakers passed a new law requiring the convention center to cut food service and electrical costs and allow exhibitors to set up their own booths to save money. For the first time, they are permitted to truck in their own displays with hand carts, and to set up what is often specialized equipment. They can even hang signs.
Citizens attending shows which are open to the public, like the annual Chicago Auto Show, may notice discounted parking and savings on food as much as 20 percent over last year.
"We are dedicated to making Chicago the number one destination in the world for conventions and business meetings," said Bruce Rauner, of the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau. "HIMSS' return is a true testament to the success of the reforms approved last spring."
Not everything has been settled. At least one union lawsuit against the new rules is still pending, and the giant Plastics show, which also fled last year, has not been lured back. Reilly said negotiations with the show's parent organization are still ongoing.
But at McCormick Place Monday, exhibitors setting up for the annual Boat and RV show hailed the new rules as a big step forward.
"We're saving thousands of dollars across the board," said Mark Munson, of Munson Ski and Marine. "I'll bet you four or five thousand dollars we'll save this year."
McCormick Place management is expected to hand over control to a private company later this year.