By Kathy Bergen | The agency that runs McCormick Place and Navy Pier could look to
corporate America and to the traveling public for additional revenue
streams — if legislators go along with proposals being discussed this week
Lawmakers are considering letting the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition
Authority, or McPier, sell naming rights to its facilities.
Twenty-five percent of the proceeds would go into an incentive fund for
luring new trade shows, and 75 percent would go toward paying off
facility expansion bonds. An estimate on potential proceeds was
unavailable Tuesday afternoon.
Legislators also are weighing whether to allow McPier, a state-city hybrid, to double the fees on taxi and bus rides from O’Hare and Midway airports, which could bring in another $6 million to $8 million a year, sources said. McPier would forward that money to the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau, the non-profit that books business into McCormick Place. Rival cities such as Las Vegas and Orlando have much bigger marketing budgets than Chicago.
The ideas are contained in a working draft of reform legislation, obtained by the Tribune this week. Negotiations are continuing today, and provisions could change or be dropped before a proposed bill emerges, possibly later this afternoon.
“It’s all still fluid…meetings are taking place all over,” said Patricia Schuh, a spokeswoman for Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont. She declined to discuss any specifics.
But the 177-page document offers a glimpse into the issues being weighed by members of the General Assembly, who are expected to vote on a McCormick Place overhaul bill by Friday. The aim is to lower exhibitor costs, making the convention center more competitive with cheaper.
The draft contains many of the recommendations made late last week by Jim Reilly, chairman of the Regional Transportation Authority, who is the legislature’s chief adviser on a McPier overhaul. It calls for a state-appointed a trustee to oversee an 18-month turn-around, and the trustee would have the authority to hire a private management firm to run McCormick Place.
The draft also contains a lengthy roster of state-imposed show-floor rule changes aimed at cutting exhibitors’ costs and hassles, though negotiations with organized labor were continuing today.
The convention center currently is named for the late Colonel Robert R. McCormick, who was editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune and who led the drive for a Chicago convention center.
Navy Pier was originally called Municipal Pier, but was renamed in 1927 to honor Navy personnel who served in World War I.