Major convention business jumps at Detroit's renovated Cobo Center, with 12 big events in 2014

DETROIT – The thousands of Japanese anime art fans who descend on Cobo Center on Halloween are another sign of the reviving fortunes of Detroit’s downtown convention venue now undergoing a $279 million renovation, officials said.

Organizers of the Youmacon convention say they expect it to draw 14,000 people this year. The event first took place at suburban hotels and moved to downtown Detroit’s Renaissance Center for a few years before outgrowing that space.

“We have a lot of people coming from town but also all across the United States and abroad,” said Morgan Kollin, Youmacon convention chairman.

Youmacon is one of five Cobo conventions this year that are large enough to fill multiple hotels. Totals recently have ranged from four in 2011 to 10 in 2007.

The number jumps to 12 major conventions in 2014, and Detroit convention bureau Vice-President Bill Bohde said the increase reflects an improving situation for Cobo and Detroit. That’s despite the city’s financial emergency and bankruptcy process.

“We completely expect those numbers to continue to climb, especially after the completion of construction in 2015,” Bohde told the Detroit Free Press ( ).

The centerpiece of Detroit’s convention business is the annual North American International Auto Show. The 2014 event is Jan. 14-27 at Cobo. Auto show organizers’ threats to move the event elsewhere led to the renovation plan now underway and the centre’s transfer from direct municipal control to a regional authority.

The big 2014 conventions also include the normal Society of Automotive Engineers meeting as well as some newcomers — the Presbyterian Church USA and the Islamic Society of North America.

A key 2015 event will be a visit to Cobo by the American Society of Association Executives. Known as the Super Bowl of trade shows, it’s expected to bring 5,000 meeting planners, association executives, suppliers and others convention insiders to Detroit. The show typically results in a big boost in future business for a facility like Cobo.

“The completion of Cobo and improvements in our city are going to have a significant impact,” Bohde said. “I’d like to say that our new normal will be 20 or more” multi-hotel shows. “We have that potential.”




Information from: Detroit Free Press,