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McCormick Place Faces Hungry Consultant

By Laura Oppenheimer in Food on Nov 9, 2006 2:20PM

A consultant to McCormick Place recommended Tuesday that a food court with a "1900s Chicago" theme be added to the mammoth convention center. 2006_11_mccormick.jpgCiting the lack of dining options in the area, consultant William J. Caruso advised the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, who owns McCormick Place, that a food court be built at the front of the South Building, next to the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place.

McCormick Place, the country's largest convention center, can hold tens of thousands of conventioneers and trade show attendees, but it doesn't currently have a cohesive large-scale food court. The recommended food court would be between 30,000 and 35,000 square feet, would have a 1900s Chicago neighborhood theme (complete with gas lights!), and would potentially have classic Chicago restaurants, like Manny's, and celebrity chef-owned offerings, like Frontera Grill.

We think the idea of a specifically Chicago-themed dining hall is a great one; conventions and trade shows draw people from all over the globe, and exposing them to Chicago in any way possible is a boon for the city. After all, many attendees probably don't ever get away from the McCormick Place during their stay in our fair city, venturing only from the hotel to the convention center and back. But of course, this isn't the real concern of the MPEA — endearing people to Chicago is great and all, but at the end of the day, it's all about getting and then keeping the shows in Chicago, instead of Las Vegas or Orlando.

In addition to serving the visiting population, the consultant also suggested that the general population in the area could take advantage of the food court. We aren't sure how successful that would be. McCormick Place isn't exactly the friendliest or most welcoming of facilities.

What do you think? Will a food court draw in locals? Or will it be like Navy Pier — another all-tourist spot avoided by locals at all costs?