Senate leader floats McCormick Place subsidy idea

Posted April 1, 2010 at 2:26 p.m.

Cullerton-Web.jpgIllinois Senate President John J. Cullerton speaking about McCormick Place on Thursday. (José M. Osorio/ Chicago Tribune)

By Kathy Bergen | One of the state’s most powerful legislative leaders on Thursday raised
the possibility of a state subsidy for McCormick Place operations, after
several representatives of key Chicago trade shows made it clear they
needed exhibitor costs slashed or they would consider moving elsewhere.

“Orlando and Las Vegas both provide subsidies for their operations,”
said Ill. Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, who chaired the
first legislative hearing on how to make McCormick Place more
competitive with rivals. Those cities funnel hotel taxes to pay for
operations, and Cullerton said Illinois could consider doing the same with its existing hotel tax revenues.

McCormick Place, which does not get a subsidy for its operations, has been overcharging for electrical service and food service as a way to make ends meet, he said. And those two areas have been well-publicized sore spots for trade shows and conventions.

“It’s obvious we have a major problem,” he said after the hearing at the Thompson Center.

The state also needs to examine labor union work rules that many trade shows find costly and frustrating, and to look at ways to further streamline operations at the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, state-city agency that runs the exhibition hall, he said.

A second hearing will be held next Wednesday. Labor unions, show contractors and the exposition authority will address the 16-member House-Senate panel at that time.



  1. Darrell Shaw April 1, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    Please, do not do this!
    The subsidies will go to the very groups who have mismanaged the labor and programs, and the exhibitors will see none of it. Chicago is not capable of running this facility.
    Let it go.

  2. Yougottabekidding April 1, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    Illinois is already bankrupt! When will our legislators get their heads out of the sand and CUT spending, not increase it?!? McCormick Place is losing business because it is dominated by fat, lazy unions with too much power who are lining their pockets with ridiculous fees. Take away the union factor, allow capitalism to work the way it is supposed to, and the problem will resolve itself. Chicago is a vibrant and attractive city – conventions will return if the price is right. But that can only happen when the unions are shut down.

  3. insight April 1, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    these guy must have idiots in his district, because if i were in his district i would vote his stupid butt out quicker than he could say subsidy

  4. Frank April 1, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    We would be subsidizing the “out of control” unions, not McCormick Place. Subsidize Illinois education first.

  5. tom April 1, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    April Fools!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    forgot, we live and pay taxes in the State of Illinois

  6. Starstream880 April 1, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    “Orlando and Las Vegas both provide subsidies for their operations,” said Cullerton. Are you nuts? Last I looked those cities were in serious finacial distress too … we should emulate them? The state is broke and you want yet more “subsidies” (read: taxpayer dollars being diverted) to prop up another fool politian “build it and they will come” facility? For anyone who cared to look, trade shows as a marketing tool have been drying up for years, and McCormick is compounded by the high costs and restrictive work “rules”. This sounds like the post office model … millions in the red, business volume declining, no growth potential and some twits are still whining about “can’t cut Saturday delivery”. Gentle readers, here is a sterling case of why NOT to support Quinn’s quest for an income tax hike. The ink would not be dry on the bill before Mikey 4M’s or some other pol would find ways to suck up the “found” money.

  7. Don April 1, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    This is financial insanity. Go ahead and waste more taxpayer money to support waste and greed. Fire them all including inept politicians and have them go out and find a “real’ job if they can.
    DT – President of Taxpayers for Change – Left in Our Pockets.

  8. reasonableman April 1, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    McCOrmic Place should go down in flames. No bailout for this trash heap.

  9. Addisonst April 1, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    I’m one of the idiots in his district. He runs unopposed and I still don’t vote for him.

  10. JOHN C April 1, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    They already have a subsidy of taxes that Go to the McPier/McCormick black hole, it is the extra 2.5% of tax on restaurants and hotels for the EXISTING construction bonds.
    Cullerton is a devilish little leprechaun to suggest MORE for getting less. He should fire his friends!
    More rewards for incompetance

  11. Burritoboy April 1, 2010 at 6:22 pm

    McCormick Place, which does not get a subsidy for its operations, has been overcharging for electrical service and food service as a way to make ends meet, he said. ………………..No, they are overcharging because of the unions, which also subsidizes the mob ties. This guy must be on the take (which goes without saying).

  12. JOHN C April 1, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    The middle man like Freeman/GES hikes up the charges 400% to 700%, the taxpayers and floor exhibitors are the ones getting screwed. Union labor is Very, very competitive over there, they only make between $24 to $45 dollars per hour and they work nights weekends and holidays on a very erratic schedule. MCpier is a political dumping ground of hacks and quacks!
    A first year accountant could figure this all out in 1 hour!

  13. 134 Mike April 1, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    It seems like a conflict of interest to me.Isn’t Cullerton related someway to the Allens? Pat Allen is a high ranking McPier Employee his brothers are Labor Officers with the Bricklayers and the Electricians and Tom Allen is alderman of the 38th Ward.To much power to little input from the people that fund this me and you.

  14. Jeff April 1, 2010 at 7:23 pm

    OK Chicago, the rest of the state is counting on you to vote out this guy. Enough is enough!

  15. ejhickey April 1, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    so instead of reducing out of control costs , this idiot wants to take money from the rest of us and give it to the people who caused the problem in the first place. The other cities subsidize their conventions because they are not as attractive a location as Chicago. However instead of exploiting our advantages , the unions and the Democrats are doing everything possible to negate these pluses.
    How about just reducing costs by lowering the wages and the fees and simplifying the work rules? Maybe that would be too much CHANGE for the Democrats and their union puppet masters.

  16. Peter Destounis April 1, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    Please, do not do this!
    The subsidies will not only go to the very groups who mismanaged all of the labor and programs, but also the unions who over charge in the first place.
    $100 to plug in a coffee maker?
    Loose a few more shows and hopefully then the unions will realize that even $25 an hour is better than $0 an hour.

  17. MC worker April 2, 2010 at 1:06 a.m.

    I advise if you don’t work there, shut the hell up!!! You can claim you know what is going on but until you are in the thick of it, you have NO CLUE!!! I watch the F&B company I work for charge more than 4 times my union pay, and that is for 4 hrs of work even though I am paid & work for an 8 hr shift, their profit is the problem not my union pay. $250. for 4 hrs charge plus 75. every hr after to the exhibitor vs actual pay 8 hr shift pay 60.44, The company makes the profit 3 times what I am paid and more. Do you still want to say the unions are the problem??? It is GES, FREEMAN and the rest of the McCormick PL. Hey why don’t we hire a new board that has NO IDEA how to run a convention center and then pay them hundreds of thousands of dollars in pay & benifets so we can continue to run it into the ground. Then we want to listen to Mayor Dailey who has done such a great job with putting all his relatives in great paying jobs and keeps the city out of debt! Get real they are just changing the players and don’t want to get to the real solutions.

  18. bdj April 2, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    Uh, can we send the money to schools….