A message from the general manager
What an exciting time it is to be in Detroit. The comeback of this great city is in full swing and Cobo Center is at the forefront of this great story. The final phase of the $279 million transformation of Cobo Center is complete and the results are breathtaking. Beyond the interior changes, the outdoor space has been reimagined with a beautiful terrace overlooking the Detroit River and a large public square. The Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority’s vision of a world class convention center has been realized.
Cobo Center is managed by SMG, the largest company in the world specializing in the operation of convention centers, arenas, stadiums, and theaters and we partner with the DRCFA in introducing best practices, fiscal responsibility and a total focus on outstanding customer service. Our success is rooted in the success of our customers.
Cobo Center has a professional and experienced team that partners with the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau and the regional hospitality community to fully support shows and conventions at the facility. We have listened to our customers with regard to food and the demand for healthy, fresh, and quick menu items has been met.
In my twenty years in the event business, I have never been a part of a stronger or more talented team. Working together in cooperation with our regional partners, the DRCFA and SMG are committed to providing outstanding experiences for our guests. Our vision is to make each event at Cobo Center the most important of the year.
General Manager, SMG / Cobo Center
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
Delivering outstanding event experiences.
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 723,000 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 623,000 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 $2.6 million yearly for southeastern Michigan children’s charities. After the Charity Preview party, the NAIAS is open to the public for ten days, drawing, more than 800,000 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.
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 past 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, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama) has addressed a convention or attended an event at Cobo Center.
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 recently completed a $279 million expansion and upgrade of Cobo Center in 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 a then, unprecedented five-year contract that keeps the auto show in the Motor City through 2017. In 2017, officials from both parties signed a contract for an additional eight years, keeping NAIAS in Cobo Center through 2025.
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.