Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

July 2012

Facilitating Success: Cobo Center

Jennifer N. Dienst and Katie Kervin

A convention center transformation in Detroit

A brand-new Cobo Center is rising, and in 2014, Detroit's skyline will be forever changed when the newly transformed facility completes its $299-million renovation and expansion. Along with new ballrooms, expanded exhibit space, and revamped meeting rooms, the SMG-managed convention center will feature an entirely new exterior and entrance built around the center's prime waterfront location.

The centerpiece of the transformation - a new three-story glass atrium inside the main entrance - will greet visitors with dramatic views of the Detroit River. Outside, Cobo Center's new glass-enclosed, downtown-facing facade will feature an oversized "media mesh" sign that will display video and images welcoming visitors and promoting events.

Previously considered an afterthought, the 100,000-square-foot lower-level show floor will, along with the addition of 22,500 square feet on the first level, increase the Cobo Center's capacity to host more than 95 percent of the world's largest conventions. And when coupled with the Joe Louis Arena next door, the complex's expansive riverfront campus sets the stage for easily accessible outdoor events.  But more space isn't the only new selling point at Cobo Center. Thoughtful additions, like the latest equipment and audiovisual technology, will also be incorporated throughout the facility, from complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi to overhead rigging capacity on 10-foot grids. Most of the center's exterior walls facing the river will be replaced with high-efficiency glass to let in more natural light, and the new 38,000-square-foot ballroom will be equipped with a hydraulic-lift stage.

With these new assets, combined with superior airlift capacity at the award-winning Detroit Metro Airport, a U.S. Port of Entry to Canada just two blocks away, and close to 2,000 new, competitively priced hotel rooms downtown, Detroit is set to become a global leader for hosting more world-class conventions, meetings, and events than ever before.

For more information: Cobo Center - (313) 877- 8777; info@cobocenter.com; cobocenter.com

At a Glance


Hotel rooms within walking Distance


  • 5,000 rooms

Convention facilities (as of 2014)


  • 622,500 square feet of contiguous exhibition space
  • 38,000 square feet of ballroom space
  • 100 meeting/breakout rooms
  • 2,200 parking spaces
  • 31 loading docks

On-site services and amenities

  • Food court
  • Business center
  • Retail shopping at Detroit Shoppe
  • Recycling stations
  • On-site People Mover station

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