McPier Panel Approves Plan to Stop Trade Show Bleed

Springfield expected to quickly approve recommendations

By Dick Johnson and BJ Lutz
|  Wednesday, Apr 21, 2010  |  Updated 11:15 PM CDT
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McPier Panel Approves Plan to Stop Trade Show Bleed

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McCormick Place

Sweeping changes intended to cut costs at McCormick Place were approved Wednesday by the convention center's interim board.

Now it's up to Springfield to go along with the recommendations that hope to cease Chicago's recent bleed of trade shows.

The reform agreement put forth Wednesday would:

  • eliminate expensive union work rules by making union workers McCormick Place employees
  • eliminate the in-house electrical contractor
  • allow outside catering
  • restructure the authority's debt schedule
  • allocate market money directly to McCormick Place, rather than the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau

The Chicago president of Meeting Planners International called the agreement a complete game-changer.

"It definitely is revitalizing the convention industry and the meetings industry in Chicago and we're very excited," said Chrissy Ward.

She said the changes would give MPI a "seat at the table and a voice."

"That voice has been loud and it's just for the betterment of Chicago and to keep business here," she said.

The tough sell for convention planners was never the city or the nightlife or even the McCormick Place complex itself. The deal breaker, especially as the economy soured, was the out-of-control cost of operating a convention in the massive facility. From fees for plugging in an exhibit to a case of soft drinks, convention planners said everything was simply too expensive.

Last year, a plastics industry trade show, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, and the International Dairy Foods Association announced movement of upcoming shows. 

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