Just two firms competing to run McCormick Place

By Kathy Bergen
Posted Nov. 11, 2010 at 12:00 p.m.

The nation’s two largest convention center operators were the only companies to submit proposals to manage McCormick Place. The publicly owned convention complex is undergoing a state-mandated overhaul that is expected to include a shift to private management.

The biggest of the two competitors is SMG, whose sports and entertainment division has operated Soldier Field for the Chicago Park District since 1994. It is based in West Conshohocken, Pa.

Also competing is Global Spectrum, part of the Comcast empire. Based in Philadelphia, it was started by a former partner at SMG. Its senior vice president/convention centers is Tom M. Mobley Jr., who was general manager of McCormick Place from 1992 to 2003.

Only a handful of companies specialize in convention center management.

The Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, the state-city agency known as McPier that owns and operates McCormick Place and Navy Pier, also had sent its request for proposals to three other firms, but they did not submit proposals.

Among them were two Chicago-based companies: Merchandise Mart Properties Inc., the trade show and property management firm led by Christopher Kennedy; and International Facilities Group LLC, a Chicago-based developer and operator of sports and entertainment facilities, led by Michael Reinsdorf, son of Bulls and White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf.

The selection process now moves into a more detailed phase, with a final selection due May 27, 2011.

The result of McPier’s request for proposals was first reported by the Chicago Sun-Times.

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