State adviser: Privatize McCormick Place

Posted April 30, 2010 at 4:09 p.m.

By Kathy Bergen and Ray Long | The General Assembly’s chief adviser on McCormick Place delivered a
sweeping blueprint for change Friday, calling for privatization of
convention center management and a state-imposed easing of restrictive
and costly show-floor work rules. An interim legislature-appointed
czar would oversee the transformation.

The proposal, if ultimately approved, would lead to the ouster of Juan
Ochoa, chief executive officer of the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition
Authority, the state-city agency known as McPier that owns and operates
McCormick Place and Navy Pier. And it would reduce McPier to a
stripped-down caretaker role, reducing its payroll from 400 to somewhere
around 35 or 40 employees.

“Chicago has to show it’s changing the way it does business in the convention and trade show industry in fairly major ways,” said Jim Reilly, the adviser who briefed legislative leaders on his recommendations Friday. “There are half a dozen shows potentially on the bubble and they’re not going to wait … if another five or six left, it’s over for Chicago.”

Reilly’s recommendations will be studied over the weekend by a House-Senate committee co-chaired by House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate Pres. John Cullerton, both Chicago Democrats. The panel is expected to propose legislation early next week.

Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, said she is not prepared to sign off on the measures because no specific legislation has been presented, and she hasn’t talked to her GOP caucus about the issues, said Patty Schuh, Radogno’s spokeswoman.


One comment:

  1. Chicago 20 April 30, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    What is in the exhibitor’s bill of rights that protects them from unpredictable and escalating charges, cost-shifting, energy sur-charges, special handling, bundling, undisclosed third party payments, exorbitant mark ups on drayage and other services at McCormick Place?
    Where is the transparency?
    None of this proposal addresses 92% of exhibitor’s complaints.
    Here is an exhibitor survey from a trade show magazine.
    In your opinion, what is the single most inflated tradeshow cost?
    Materials handling (drayage)
    Exhibit space
    Furniture rental
    Exhibit transportation
    Installation and dismantle
    Booth decor
    The failure to address these problems will not solve any of the exhibitor’s concerns.
    Only the GSC’s, i.e. Freeman and GES, and their trade associations will benefit from these proposals.
    The exhibitor’s are the customer, and this proposal ignores their concerns.