Media Kit


"We are proud to be a part of the renaissance of Cobo Center, where our primary job is to help the Detroit Regional Convention Facilities Authority (DRCFA) fulfill its mission. SMG is the largest company in the world specializing in the operation of convention centers, arenas, stadiums and theaters, and we assist in accomplishing the DRCFA mission by introducing best practices, eliminating wasteful spending, and focusing on customer service. Additionally, we are introducing new preventative maintenance programs, aggressively marketing the facility with new incentive promotions, and developing new revenue streams while supporting the efforts of all of our customers to produce successful events in a safe, secure and comfortable environment.

We are currently in the process of re-branding Cobo Center as well as planning for the future. Phase I and Phase II of the $279 million renovation are completed. Phase III was initiated in 2011 and is ongoing. We are hiring and training staff and implementing processes that create what the Detroit Free Press calls a “friendlier Cobo.” By partnering with some of Detroit’s strongest brands and bringing well loved regional products into the Center’s permanent concession offerings, the media and public feel the “excitement” and “thrill” of a vigorous Cobo Center.

From a personal perspective, I believe in the power of people working together to accomplish amazing things. Our Cobo Center team is part of a destination marketing team along with the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and regional hospitality community. We are also part of the Regional Authority’s team responsible for the day to day business operation of their principal asset, Cobo Center. We have a strong staff of professionals at Cobo, with years of experience both with SMG and a variety of related industries to assure that any future event at the Cobo Center will be skillfully supported. Together, we work regionally to revitalize Michigan and the Detroit area by bringing business and visitors to the Cobo Center where they can grow their businesses and re-energize themselves."

Thom Connors
Regional Vice President and General Manager, SMG/Cobo Center


original plan

The plan for the Civic Center is a noble plan, a plan to stir the imagination. Its realization should be undertaken with a determination that will not lag until the project is completed, until this symbol of the living spirit of Detroit is raised upon the banks of the mighty river for all the world to see.

Detroit City Planning Department
Civic Center Plan – October 1946

Mission 2016

Delivering outstanding event experiences.

Vision 2016

To make each event in Cobo Center the most important of the year.



Detroit has had a profound impact on the world, from putting the world on wheels to the Motown sound, it has crafted American culture. Metro Detroit has always been a great place to work, live and visit. The region is currently undergoing a renaissance with new developments and attractions. Downtown Detroit’s development boom is unparalleled in the country, with restoration of the Detroit RiverWalk, a revitalized General Motors headquarters, the Dequindre Cut GreenWay, and the construction of Campus Martius Park in the heart of downtown. Along the beautifully restored international riverfront is Cobo Center, a world-class meeting and convention facility.

Cobo Center is one of the largest convention centers in the nation. Built by the City of Detroit, it was originally opened in 1960 and named Cobo Hall in honor of former Detroit Mayor Albert E. Cobo (1950-1957) whose vision to build a mega-convention center was realized after his death. The Center and its attached arena initially cost $56 million and took four years to complete. It is located on the site where Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, a French colonist, first set foot and landed on the banks of the river in July 1701 and claimed the area for France in the name of King Louis XIV.

As one of the nation’s first mega convention centers, Cobo became even larger when renovations and expansions were completed in 1989. At a cost of $225 million, it nearly doubled in size to 2.4 million total square feet and was re-named Cobo Conference/Exhibition Center. Now, the Center offers 722,500 square feet of prime exhibit space in five exhibit halls ranging in size from 100,000 to 200,000 square feet. Cobo’s flexible design allows the adjoining four exhibit halls on the main floor to form 625,000 square feet of contiguous exhibit space.

The first convention at Cobo Center was held in 1960 by the Florist Telegraph Delivery (FTD). The first event was the 43rd Auto Industry Dinner on October 17, 1960. President Eisenhower was the keynote speaker, and the ceremony aired live on WXYZ-TV.

Since 1965, the largest event held in Cobo Center is the nation’s premier automobile show, The North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), occurring annually in January. This prestigious event draws hundreds of international press and suppliers during its initial five days and has a spectacular charity preview party for 11,000 guests the evening before the public opening. Since 1976, the Charity Preview has raised an average of $2.4 million yearly for southeastern Michigan children’s charities. After the Charity Preview party, the NAIAS is open to the public for ten days, drawing, on average, 735,000 attendees.

The 12,000-seat Cobo Arena opened in 1960 and was home to the Detroit Pistons from 1961-1978. It hosted great concerts such as the Doors, Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, the Who, Bruce Springsteen, Kid Rock and many others. The arena also hosted Presidential speeches, boxing, wrestling, figure skating, roller derby and local Detroit-area graduation ceremonies.

The Joe Louis Arena, named after boxer and former heavyweight champion Joe Louis, who grew up in Detroit, was built adjacent and connected to the Cobo Center, and completed in 1979 at a cost of $57 million. It has a seating capacity of 20,058 (including suites); 20,338 for end-stage concerts and 21,152 for center-stage concerts. It is the home of the Detroit Red Wings of the National Hockey League, who brought six Stanley Cup Playoffs to the Joe, winning four of them, two at home. The Joe Louis Arena played host to the 1980 Republican National Convention. Former Arena Football League team the Detroit Drive also had success during its time at the arena, playing in six consecutive Arena Bowls from 1988 to 1993 and winning four of them. In addition, the Joe Louis Arena is a concert and production venue, hosting such greats as Cirque du Soleil.

In 1987, the City of Detroit began operations of the city’s elevated light-rail system, the People Mover, with stations in both Cobo Center and the Joe Louis Arena. The Detroit People Mover connects attendees to all Center events with hotels and restaurants in the Renaissance Center, Greektown, Bricktown, Times Square, and throughout the Detroit Financial District. The latest estimates show the Detroit People Mover bringing 35,000 visitors a day into Cobo Center for the NAIAS, nearly one third the average daily attendance.

Every sitting U.S. President since 1960 (Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, Gerald R. Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, William J. Clinton and George W. Bush) has addressed a convention or attended an event at Cobo Center. Prior to becoming President, Barack Obama also visited, but he has not yet done so since taking office.

Today, Cobo Center is managed and operated by the Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority (DRCFA). The five-member Authority Board consists of one representative from each of five government agencies – the City of Detroit, State of Michigan and the three metro-Detroit counties of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb. The DRCFA is currently overseeing a $299 million expansion and upgrade of Cobo Center that is scheduled for completion in January 2015.

In October 2010, the DRCFA awarded the contract for operations management of Cobo Center to SMG, the world leader in venue management, marketing and development. The success of this new contract is seen in the statement made by the NAIAS after the 2011 Auto Show: "The ongoing changes and renovations we will see at Cobo Center under the DRCFA and SMG will keep our collective teams making noted championship runs for years to come." On January 5, 2012, Senior officials from SMG and the NAIAS signed an unprecedented five-year contract that keeps the auto show in the Motor City through 2017.

Fact Sheets


The Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority (Authority) and the Cobo Center recognize the importance of equal opportunity employment. Our employment practices prohibit discrimination based on race, color, creed, religion, gender, age, national origin, disability, veteran status, marital status or any other legally protected classification. This practice applies to all decisions about recruitment, hiring, compensation, benefits, transfers, promotions, training and education, social programs, layoffs, separations and other terms of employment.

Employment opportunities are and shall be open to all qualified candidates solely on the basis of their experience, aptitude, abilities and training. Advancement is and shall be based entirely on the individual’s achievement, performance, ability, attitude and potential for promotion.

The Authority and the Cobo Center are committed to creating and maintaining a business environment in which all personnel have the opportunity to develop and contribute fully to our collective success. We encourage all personnel at our facility to work together to foster a business community based on mutual respect and support which values each individual’s dignity, abilities and unique contributions. The Authority and the Cobo Center expects that all relationships among persons in the workplace will be business-like and free of bias, prejudice and harassment.