McCormick Place is named in honor of Colonel Robert R. McCormick, a controversial and charismatic visionary who served as editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune. It was Colonel McCormick who spearheaded the drive to build a world-class convention center in the city of Chicago.
Under Colonel McCormick’s leadership, the state endorsed construction of a permanent exhibition hall to host conventions and trade shows. Col. McCormick never lived to see his dream become a reality. The facility bearing his name opened in 1960, five years after his death.
1933 — 1969
Century of Progress Exposition (World’s Fair) on the lakefront draws 1,500 conventions and 1.5 million visitors. Unsuccessful attempts are made to build a permanent exposition center.
The city successfully hosts a large railroad exposition, leading Col. McCormick to realize the need for a permanent exhibition hall in Chicago.
With Col. McCormick’s leadership, the State imposed a 1% horse racing tax to finance industrial, scientific, educational and cultural fairs and expositions and created the Chicago Park Fair non-profit corporation. After deciding that a permanent hall was needed, the State endorsed the construction of a facility in Burnham Park.
The state approves construction of a 360,000-square-foot exhibition hall and creates the Metropolitan Fair and Exposition Authority, the forerunner to the present Authority, to operate the facility.
The State issued $41.8 million in bonds. Construction started the following year on McCormick Place, to be named in honor of Col. McCormick who died in 1955.
McCormick Place opens. The facility is financed with $41.8 million in revenue bonds. The building features a main exhibit area of 320,000 square feet, 23 meeting rooms and a 5,000-seat theater.
1970 — 1989
City and state leaders work together to get the new McCormick Place rebuilt in record time. The new East Building, designed by renowned architect Gene Summers of C.F. Murphy Associates, opens with 522,000 square feet of exhibit space, 20 meeting rooms, five theaters and seven restaurants. A total of 51 expositions are held in the first year compared to the previous high of 38.
Bonds for McCormick Place were retired and the horse racing tax proceeds were shifted to retire bonds issued to construct downstate civic centers. The cigarette tax proceeds were shifted back to the State’s General Revenue Fund, with the exception of the State earmarking $4.8 million a year in cigarette taxes into a Reconstruction Fund. The money was initially used to finance the conversion of a former R.R. Donnelly & Sons Co. printing plant into additional trade show exhibit space.
In an effort to keep pace with the demand of the market, State approval is given for the building of a $252 million in dedicated state tax revenue bonds supported by an increase in the hotel tax and earmarked for the construction of annex to McCormick Place (North Building) that contains more than 510,000 square feet of exhibit space and meeting rooms.
An additional $60 million of bonds were issued, backed be the State’s sales tax, to finish completion of the McCormick Place North Building.
With the demand for convention space soaring, the newly built annex, McCormick Place North, comes into full use. The International Machine Tool Show (which is now known as the International Manufacturing Technology Show) is the first show to use the McCormick Place North Building. Building officially dedicated on May 8, 1987.
The Authority successfully refunded the 1984 and 1985 Bonds and authorized the restructuring of the existing escrow account, which provided approximately $27 million in savings to the taxpayers of Illinois.
McCormick Place operations are restructured, joining city-owned Navy Pier under the newly-created Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority. A thirteen-member board is appointed by the Governor of Illinois and the Mayor of Chicago. Restoration of Navy Pier is authorized by the Illinois General Assembly with a $150 million state bond issue.
• Also in 1989, new plans to expand McCormick Place complex are approved by the MPEA board.
1990 — 1999
The Illinois General Assembly authorizes the building and financing of a proposed $987 million expansion to McCormick Place. Will become the South Building. The expansion was financed by those industries deemed to directly benefit from the complex. The funding sources include the following:
• A 6% fee on auto rentals in Cook County
• A 2.5% tax on hotel/motel rooms in Chicago
• A 1% tax on restaurant meals in a downtown district bounded by the Stevenson Expressway, Ashland Avenue and Diversey, as well as meals served at Midway & O’Hare Airports
• A ground transportation fee from O’Hare and Midway Airports
ALSO, the MPEA receives the tax revenue surplus, if any, from the Illinois Sports Facility Authority.
The new McCormick Place South Building opens. The expansion project adds 2.9 million gross square feet to the McCormick Place complex and features 840,000 square feet of exhibition space, plus 160,000 square feet of meeting room space.
With a new look and name, the Lakeside Center (formerly the East Building) reopens. Lakeside Center provides 583,000 square feet of exhibit space and is home to the renovated 4,249 seat Arie Crown Theater.
• In June, the MPEA unveils the $108 million 33-story Hyatt Regency® McCormick Place Hotel. With 800-guest rooms and a 600-car parking garage, the hotel is an integral part of the convention center operations.
• The MPEA embarks on a plan to build a new six level parking garage, conference center, corporate center and a dedicated bus lane designed to connect McCormick Place to downtown Chicago. In July, Governor Jim Edgar signs a bill which allows McCormick Place to issue $100 million in bonds for the project.
The Illinois legislature approves a debt-restructuring plan for the MPEA, which results in the issuance of $270 million of new bonds. Of this amount, $198 million is used for refinancing and $72 million for repairs and new projects at McCormick Place and Navy Pier.
2000 — 2009
MPEA and the Teamsters, Carpenters, Decorators and Riggers union extended through 2005 a historic labor agreement that helps solidify Chicago as a premier convention and trade show destination.
The Illinois Legislature approves the expansion plan for McCormick Place which will add 470,000 square feet of exhibit space and 250,000 square feet of meeting room space including the city’s largest ballroom. The original target date for opening the new McCormick Place West Building is set for 2008.
• In August, to meet the increasing demand for meeting space, the Hyatt Regency® McCormick Place Conference Center opens. The new facility is owned by the MPEA and operated by the Hyatt. The new Hyatt Conference Center and adjoining 2,450 space parking garage are located opposite the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place hotel and the South Building.
The Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority unveils the new McCormick Place busway in January. The new 2.5 mile roadway alongside the Metra /IC Railroad tracks through Grant Park will be used by shuttle buses transporting attendees between McCormick Place and downtown hotels. The new busway is the first of its kind designed for convention and trade show travel. It is jointly operated by the MPEA, the City of Chicago and Metra.
The Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority selects Mc4West, LLC as the design/build team for the McCormick Place West expansion project. The Mc4West team is comprised of essentially the same team that delivered the McCormick Place South expansion on schedule and under budget.
The McCormick Place Bird Sanctuary was developed in 2003. It is one of the Chicago Park District’s four bird lakefront sanctuaries. The 6-acre sanctuary contains prairie, shrub, and woodland habitat and a freshwater stone birdbath. The wildflowers and grasses are specially selected for this prairie area. A platform with interpretive signage on the east side provides viewing and birding opportunities into the habitat. The McCormick Place Bird Sanctuary is open to the public from dawn until dusk.
The Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority officially embarks on the next major phase of the evolution of McCormick Place convention center.
• In May, an official groundbreaking ceremony marks the beginning of the construction phase of the McCormick Place West Building. One of the first major milestones of the project includes the successful relocation of the architecturally significant Platt Luggage façade to its new location at 2203 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
• In May, Navy Pier celebrates its 10th anniversary with special festivities and entertainment.
• Also in May, the MPEA establishes the Labor Management Council to review issues related to cost, efficiency and the overall show experience.
The economic impact for the city of the more than 75 events booked into McCormick Place totals nearly $3.4 billion. Almost all shows booked at McCormick Place break records for attendance and exhibitors.
• In January, MPEA officials announce that the West Building will open eight months early and on budget.
• In May, Riggers Union Local 136 signs a precedent-setting five-year labor agreement that results in more efficient service and increased savings for McCormick Place customers.
• In August, the United Steelworkers Local 17 Decorators Union also reaches its own landmark agreement with the show contractors who work at McCormick Place, resulting in more flexibility and reduced costs for both exhibitors and show management.
• In August, the new McCormick Place West Building opens, adding 2.7 million gross square feet of space to the McCormick Place complex and featuring 460,000 square feet of exhibit space; 250,000 square feet of meeting space; one of the world’s largest and most elegant ballrooms.
• In August, McCormick Place West becomes the largest new-construction building in the country to receive the coveted LEED® Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for its environmentally-friendly design.
• In June, major trade show contractors and the union representing the largest single group of workers on the trade show floor announced a new collective bargaining agreement designed to further reduce costs for McCormick Place exhibitors and provide them with greater operational flexibility
2010 — Present
• In May, the Illinois General Assembly approves bold and historic legislation to reform labor rules, establish exhibitor rights and realign McCormick Place operations with its major competitors in the convention and trade show industries. The legislation contains the core reforms introduced in January by MPEA officials, the Illinois Governor, and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.
• April – MPEA selects the private convention venue management first, SMG, to run the daily operations of McCormick Place, starting July 1, 2011. SMG is a recognized world leader in convention center management, running more than 220 municipal and private venues in nine countries, including Chicago’s Soldier Field. The selection of a private management firm is a key component of the historic reforms enacted by the Illinois General Assembly in 2010 to streamline operations and lower costs for McCormick Place customers.
• July – MPEA announces the selection of Savor as the new food-service management company for McCormick Place. Savor has been in business for more than 25 years and is focused on providing a high quality culinary experience with impeccable service.
• July – MPEA selects CBG Hotel Design-Builders as the design-build team for the expansion of the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place Hotel. The scope of the project includes a new 462-room guest tower that will rise atop the Hyatt McCormick’s parking deck, plus renovation of the existing 800-room Hyatt hotel and the adjacent Conference Center. The completion date is the latter half of 2013.
• October – MPEA and the labor organizations that represent the McCormick Place workforce reach a settlement on a lawsuit challenging the MPEA’s authority to implement work rule reforms outlined in the May 2010 legislation approved by the Illinois General Assembly. The work rules that show organizers and exhibitors had enjoyed with the passage of the McCormick Place reform legislation on 2010 are now fully restored , effective, November 1, 2011. McCormick Place is now aligned with its major competitors in the convention and trade show industries and is the most customer-friendly destination in the country.
• May – McCormick Place was the venue chosen for the NATO Summit on May 21-22, 2012. The McCormick Place team rose to the occasion to host this world-class event at the nation’s largest convention center. Leaders from around the world gathered at this important diplomatic summit hosted by President Barack Obama. There were approx. 2,000 journalists on-site to chronicle this historic event. This summit was the largest gathering of world leaders in the United States at one time since the formation of the United Nations after World War II. Additionally, this was the first summit in the United States hosted by a city other than Washington, D.C.
• June – A historic agreement is made between McCormick Place, Navy Pier, MPEA, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 134, and International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Local 2. This agreement allows IATSE stagehands to complete a type of work previously completed by IBEW electricians. This announcement further solidifies McCormick Place’s competitive standing in the industry and strengthens Chicago’s ability to attract corporate and association business.
• November – McCormick Place was the site of President Barack Obama’s Election Night Rally on Nov. 6, 2012. The McCormick Place team played an integral role in hosting this historic event at the Lakeside Center where more than 12,000 supporters came to watch the 44th President win re-election to his second term as the President of the United States.
• February – MPEA announces the development of a 1,200 room headquarters hotel to be built adjacent to McCormick Place. The new hotel will provide the facilities and amenities required to serve as the headquarters for groups holding shows at McCormick Place. The new hotel will play a major role in the revitalization of the neighborhood surrounding McCormick Place.
• April – McCormick Place becomes the largest convention center in North America to be certified with a new sustainability standard. McCormick Place achieved the Level One Certification with the ASTM Standard pertaining to the Evaluation and Selection of Venues for Environmentally Sustainable Meetings, Events, Trade Shows and Conferences.
• May – McCormick Place officials announce that the largest convention center in North America has committed to offsetting 100 percent of its electricity usage with clean, affordable wind energy.
• May – The McCormick Place Entertainment District was unveiled by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and MPEA officials as part of a larger announcement of Elevate Chicago, a new tourism and tradeshow infrastructure program. The McCormick Place Entertainment District will include a 10,000 seat event center, dining and entertainment venues, hotels including a 1,200 room headquarters hotel and streetscapes. The event center will serve as a general session hall for convention and trade shows, a venue for concerts and special event and the home court for DePaul’s men’s and women’s basketball. The building will be linked to the McCormick Place West by a pedestrian sky bridge.
• June – The MPEA unveils the completed the $110 million expansion and renovation of the Hyatt McCormick Place, a 1,262 room hotel on the convention campus with new meeting and public spaces and upgraded amenities. The hotel is now the fourth largest in Chicago.
• September – The MPEA announces the selection of Marriott International, Inc. as operator of the planned 1,200-room headquarters hotel adjacent to McCormick Place. The hotel, will be operated as a Marriott Marquis, the company’s premier convention center hotel brand. The new Chicago hotel will be the only Marriott Marquis in the Metropolitan Chicago area.
• February – The MPEA announces the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place expansion has been awarded LEED® Gold certification. It is among the first hotels to achieve the LEED Gold certification in Illinois and the Midwest. The LEED rating system, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), is the foremost program for buildings, homes and communities that are designed, constructed, maintained and operated for improved environmental and human health performance.
• July – The MPEA along with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Marriott officials, and city and state officials break ground on the Marriott Marquis Chicago. The 1,206 room hotel is located on the McCormick Place campus and along with the existing 1,258 Hyatt McCormick Place, further enhances Chicago’s position with the concentration of a substantial number of hotel rooms that offer the option of on-site convenience for attendees. The new 40-story hotel will be the only Marriott Marquis in the Metropolitan Chicago area and will include the renovation of the historic American Book Company. The hotel will also include specialty suites as well as 90,000 square feet of meeting room space which includes two 25,000 square-foot ballrooms, a great room style restaurant and as well as a Marketplace food court. The Marriott Marquis Chicago will be a key marketing asset for the city and ensure that the McCormick Place campus achieves its full potential as a major economic engine for Chicago and Illinois. The project is scheduled for completion in 2017.
• November – The MPEA along with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, DePaul officials and city and state officials break ground on the 10,000-seat McCormick Place Event Center. The Event Center with its contemporary architectural design will have the capacity to host general sessions for conventions and trade shows, concerts and other special events, as well as serve as the home court for DePaul University’s women’s and men’s basketball teams. The McCormick Place Event Center is a key component of the MPEA’s expanded portfolio that will further enhance Chicago’s competitiveness in the convention and trade show industry and act as a major economic engine for Chicago and Illinois. The Event Center will be constructed by the MPEA and DePaul University and is scheduled for completion in 2017.
• February – Report: McCormick Place attendance highest since 2004. McCormick Place saw 2.4 million people walk through its doors, a 4 percent increase over 2014 and the most since 2004, when attendance surpassed 2.5 million, according to the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture invited McCormick Place to present at USDA Market Summit – Tomorrow’s Table which is a symposium held at The White House. Representing McCormick Place was Kevin Jezewski, Sustainability Director for SAVOR…Chicago, who presented within the discussion on the major needs and challenges of businesses along the supply chain.
• April – MPEA CEO Lori Healey announces McCormick Square, Chicago’s newest community initiative aimed at enhancing the greater McCormick Place and Motor Row area to provide McCormick Place attendees with more local options. Learn more about this exciting project here: http://mccormicksquarechicago.com
The McCormick Square Announcement included the rebranding of several of the campus logos, including the McCormick Place and the MPEA Logos.
• September – The International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) held a record-breaking year with the highest number of exhibiting companies and featured the latest self-driving technology with the Olli Bus, where attendees could catch a demonstration ride in Hall C.
• October – The McCormick Place Event Center (Now Wintrust Arena) was officially topped off on October 5 with the ceremonial lifting of the last beam. City of Chicago Deputy Mayor, Steve Koch, along with 3rd Ward Alderman Pat Dowell, and DePaul University’s Rev. Dennis Holtschneider joined MPEA CEO Lori Healey to commence the ceremony
• November – Wintrust Financial Corporation – Chicago’s leading community and corporate banking company – DePaul University, and the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA), announced the naming rights of the event center at McCormick Square with the new name of Wintrust Arena. The announcement comes after the signing of a letter of intent that contemplates a definitive 15-year sponsorship agreement between DePaul and Wintrust. The 10,387-seat venue will feature 22 suites, 479 club seats, two VIP club lounges and the Demon Deck, a designated section for DePaul students with a close-up view of the on-court action. Amenities will include state-of-the-art technology, multiple locker rooms, sports medicine areas and training facilities.
• December – A new partnership between the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters, the American Heart Association and McCormick Place installed an innovated new CPR Saves Lives Kiosk. Visitors can learn or freshen up on their CPR Skills thanks to an interactive digital experience.
• January – McCormick Square Hosts President Obama’s Farewell Address. The 44th President of the United States delivered his Farewell Address at McCormick Place, instilling hope and cherishing memories, on January 10. Since opening its doors in 1960, McCormick Place has held a rich tradition of hosting U.S. Presidents, such as President John F. Kennedy and President Lyndon B. Johnson, for important events, speeches and notable visits.
The McCormick Place Camps expands with the ground breaking of First Hospitality Group, Inc. development of Hilton’s First Triple-Brand Hotel, a combination of the Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton Inn by Hilton and Home2 Suites by Hilton will attach to McCormick Place via a pedestrian sky-bridge.
• February – The MPEA Releases economic impact study which findings showcase a sound investment to help grow Illinois’ economy today and tomorrow. McCormick Square brings approximately $9.4 billion in economic impact to Illinois.
SAVOR…Chicago McCormick Place and Brickstone Brewery Unveiled McCormick Place Everyday Ale during the 2017 Chicago Auto Show. Brewed with hops grown in the rooftop garden atop McCormick Place’s West Building, McCormick Place Everyday Ale is a refreshing Session Ale with a light malt backbone and hopped with Citra, Amarillo and Cascade hops. It is the country’s first branded ale brewed for a convention center using locally-sourced ingredients.
• October – October 14, 2017 – The 10,000 seat Wintrust Arena officially opens with a ceremonial ribbon cutting and marks a new era of sporting entertainment in McCormick Square. Free public tours were offered in conjunction with the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s city wide event Open House Chicago. The ribbon-cutting included MPEA CEO Lori Healey, Wintrust CEO Edward J. Wehmer, DePaul University President Amado Gabriel Esteban, DePaul Athletics Director Jean Lenti Ponsetto, Men’s Basketball Head Coach Dave Leitao and Women’s Basketball Head Coach Doug Bruno and Robert Charles representing 3rd Ward Alderman Pat Dowell. Visitors enjoyed free popcorn as DePaul athletes practiced on their new home court. The Wintrust Arena is owned by the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority and is in key partnership with DePaul University as the anchor tenant. SMG provides managerial responsibilities of the arena and SAVOR…Chicago is the exclusive food and beverage provider. DePaul celebrations continued with a concert by Chicago the band on November 9, 2017.
October 27, 2017 – Bob Dylan and his band along with Mavis Staples performed the inaugural concert at the newly opened Wintrust Arena. • November – November 1, 2017 – President Obama returns to the McCormick Place campus for the inaugural Obama Summit held in the new Marriott Marquis Chicago hotel. Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, joined Obama to address hundreds of civic leaders and artists gathered for the two-day event. Closing ceremony, held in the Wintrust Arena, featured performances by Chance the Rapper, Gloria Estefan and The National.
November 8, 2017 – Metra and the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority unveiled significant upgrades to the Metra station at McCormick Place, including a vibrant series of mural paintings from Chicago Public School students who participate in the After School Matters program. The project included the redesign and renovation of the waiting room, a new digital signage and sound system, new lighting and enhancements to the platform area and the addition of more visible signage to direct customers to and from the station.
November 11, 2017 – The Wintrust Arena hosts the first DePaul Men’s Basketball Game against Notre Dame marking a new era for sporting events at McCormick Place.
November 16, 2017 – The four-star Marriott Marquis Chicago, the Marriott’s largest hotel in North America, opens with a performance by Jennifer Hudson along with remarks from Marriott International President & CEO, Arne Sorenson and local civic leaders. The 40-story luxury hotel features 1,205 stylish guest rooms and suites, with over 93,000 square feet of elegant event space, including two 25,000-square-foot ballrooms and connected by covered sky bridge to McCormick Place and the Wintrust Arena.
• May – May 16, 2018 – Kerry James Marshall “Past Times” piece sells at auction for $21.1 million at Sotheby’s New York. Originally purchased for $25,000 in 1997 for the McCormick Place South Building Expansion, the oil on canvas painting hung in the S100 corridor for nearly two decades until March 2016 when it was taken off display and loaned to the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago for a retrospective touring the exhibit on Marshall. It’s reported the buyer of the piece is Sean Combs.
August 2018 – McCormick Place welcomes the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) Annual Meeting & Exposition. ASAE ’18 becomes the largest annual meeting and expo for the association since 2007, which was also held in Chicago at McCormick Place. Attendees of ASAE ’18 gathered for a special outdoor street fair reception along Cermak Rd that followed by a performance from country music star and Illinois native Brett Eldredge in the Wintrust Arena.
September 2018 – The International Manufacturing Technology Show, opens to record numbers: 1,424,232 sq. ft. of exhibit space and 2,123 booths representing 2,563 exhibiting companies – utilizing all exhibit halls of McCormick Place: A,B,C,D,E, and F. Exhibitors brought more than 55 million lbs. of machinery on 4,465 trucks with eight machines weighing more than 100,000 lbs. The 32nd edition of the show also drew a record registration of 129,415 people.
A skybridge to the privately-owned Hilton Tri-Plex opens connecting McCormick Place to an additional 466 guest rooms and suites. The triple branded hotel is a first for the Hilton brand featuring the flags of Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton Inn by Hilton and Home2 Suites by Hilton all under the Hiltons at McCormick Place.
May 20 – Inauguration of Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Chicago’s first openly gay, African American woman officially sworn in as mayor during an inauguration at the Wintrust Arena.
October 1 – SMG and AEG Facilities merge to create ASM Global, creating a new network of over 300 of the world’s most prestigious arenas, stadiums, convention centers, and performing arts venues spanning five continents and 14 countries.
October 28 – U.S. President Donald Trump visits McCormick Place during the IACP 2019 – International Association of Chiefs of Police, the world’s largest and most influential professional association for police leaders. Following his speech in the McCormick Place West Skyline Ballroom, the President signed an executive order establishing the Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice.