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Mayor Daley Says McCormick Place East Ruins Skyline And Needs Work

By Anna Deem in News on Oct 24, 2009 7:00PM

McCormick Place East is in need of $100 million worth of repairs in order to be properly maintained, calling into question the future of the building once referred to as ruining the Chicago skyline by Mayor Daley. In order to get the money to upgrade, the Illinois General Assembly needs to authorize the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority to re-structure their debt; otherwise there won't be enough money to cover the costs.

Juan Ochoa, the chief executive officer of McPier, spoke to the Chicago Sun Times about the repairs. "We need to update the bathrooms and improve its technology capability. We need a new roof. It's a workable building, but it's nowhere near where we'd like it to be." It costs $10.6 million per year just to operate the Lakeside Center in McCormick Place, with 600,000 square feet of the exhibition center utilized for small meetings and shows. One hall had an occupancy rate of 21.2 percent this year, and the busier hall had a 46 percent rate. "As much as we'd like to keep that building because it's an asset that allows us to keep more shows, we have to look first at maintaining the assets that have the greatest potential to draw shows," Ochoa said.

Lakeside Center has also been considered as a possible site for a casino because of its built-in convention audience and express bus lane connecting to downtown hotels and restaurants. Although Daley has rejected McCormick Place East, Navy Pier, and Meigs Field as possible casino sites, a decision that Ochoa agrees with, "Our customers would not like the idea of having such easy access to a casino," he said. "If you're an exhibitor, you don't want [conventioneers] walking to a casino. You want them on the floor."