As voters closely monitored election results to determine who would guide the country over the next four years, organizers at Chicago's McCormick Place monitored those same results to determine plans for a much more immediate concern: a victory celebration.
Campaign organizers chose to showcase a different side ofChicago this time around: indoors. While the President celebrated his victory in 2008 at a public outdoor rally in Chicago's Grant Park, this year's election night site was a smaller, ticketed event.
Because of the natural security concerns for a sitting President, David Causton, general manager, McCormick Place, says that the indoor setting along Lake Michigan was a perfect fit. Chicago is no stranger to high-security events. In May 2012, the convention center welcomed high-ranking leaders from around the world for the NATO Summit.
"We were working with Secret Service agents that we had worked with before," Causton says. "They were prepared and knew the facility. Logistically, this is an ideal place to host a lot of people."
Short-Term Planning Success
At the NATO Summit, Secret Service agents learned the layout of all four buildings of the expansive convention center. On Tuesday night, they were only concerned with one of them: the Lakeside Center.
While Causton says that the biggest attribute of the Lakeside Center is a beautiful view of the downtown Chicago skyline, that was not the primary reason campaign organizers picked the building for President Obama's election night rally.
"In reality, this event was all about the timing," Causton says. "The rest of the facility is actually in use."
Causton says that organizers picked McCormick Place just a couple of weeks prior to the event date, and their familiarity with the Lakeside Center made planning in the compressed time frame smooth and successful.
Preparing for a Long Night
Early reports on major networks indicated that organizers and supporters would be in for a long night of waiting for returns from hotly contested battleground states. However, the waiting was over much earlier than anticipated. Just after 11:00 PM Eastern, NBC News was the first to call the race, and the crowd at the Lakeside Center erupted into full celebration mode.
A Second-Term Marked by a City Second to None
By the end of the night, Chicago had solidified its place as a city second to none – on the political spectrum and in the meetings industry. All eyes were on the Windy City as images of the convention center splashed across all the networks and cable news outlets, and the long campaign came to a close.
The crowd was smaller than the estimated 240,000 supporters in Grant Park in 2008, but supporters inside McCormick Place were just as enthusiastic when President Obama took the stage near 1:00 AM Eastern. While no one could be sure of what the next four years held, they knew what was in store for the rest of the night: a party.
For more on the Lakeside Center and the other three buildings at McCormick Place, click here.