The much anticipated Cobo Square to debut this spring

Feb 15, 2016

Detroit February 4, 2016 – With the 2016 North American International Auto Show packed up, moved out and enjoyed by record crowds, Cobo Center marks the completion of its five-year transformation, a record number of new meetings and conventions, and a look toward the debut of Cobo Square this spring.

The new gathering spot is the capstone of the $279 million dollar renovation. The adaptive reuse design of the old arena incorporates 45,000 square feet of outdoor flex space, which includes a large terrace now called Cobo Square.  Starting this spring, the terrace will be used for programming that includes art fairs, exercise and yoga, biergartens and other elements designed to connect Cobo Center to the community and the downtown Detroit culture.  It also infuses activity into the center between major events.

“I think the most important part of the reinvention of Cobo Center was the adaptive reuse of the old arena,” said Thom Connors, regional vice president of SMG and general manager of Cobo Center.  “By cutting part of it away and creating a new atrium, it really tied the whole renovation together and gave the view from the main concourse out to the river and across to Canada.  It brings people down to the newer, improved south side of the building and the majesty of the river.”

And the major events at Cobo Center show a remarkable return on investment with 85 hosted in 2015 compared with 35 in 2010, a gain realized while the building was under construction. The convention center now operates with 400 event days each year, double its pre-renovation amount of 200 days. 2016 is on track to beat that record.

“The Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority (DRCFA) began on a mission of regional cooperation and through the success of this renovation, became an example of what is possible when people work in consensus. Cobo Square will continue this important mandate, bringing people throughout the Metro Detroit region together in community celebrations,” said Larry Alexander, chairman of the DRCFA and CEO of the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The renovations have given both customers and prospects new tools to draw attendees to their events, namely:

 - The broadcast studio, one of the few in the country in a convention center, serves as a broadcast command center for events, uplinks satellite signals for live global broadcasts and has a sound-stage used for webcasting and taped feeds.

 - The 160-foot by 30-foot digital sign on the exterior of Cobo Center overlooking Washington Boulevard and Jefferson Avenue used to highlight events.

 - Massive renovations and an increased spotlight on Detroit has resulted in dramatic increases in attendance for international events like the Aluminum Show which returned late last year, the Intelligent Transportation International Conference which had greater attendance in Detroit than in Tokyo, and the NAIAS which had $30 million more in economic impact from 2015.

“There are very few second acts for arenas in America,” added Connors.  “In the automotive engineering and manufacturing areas, we’re now back on the map as the place to hold your meeting or come and host a trade show.  Some of them are now permanently reestablished at Cobo Center as a result of this successful reinvention and renovation of the facility.  None of it could have happened without the will and the cooperation of the region.”

Larry Alexander concluded that, “We’re not done yet.  We have to continue to strive to stay ahead of the game.  We want to be sure we’re doing more with the capabilities of this facility for the future of meetings and conventions.”


About Cobo Center:  With 723,000 square feet of exhibit space, Cobo Center boasts one of the largest contiguous exhibit floor spaces in North America and is the 17th largest convention center in the country.  Visit online at  View the Cobo Green Initiatives at:

About SMG:  Since 1977, SMG has provided management services to more than 240 public assembly facilities including arenas, stadiums, theatres and performing arts centers, equestrian facilities and convention, congress and exhibition centers.  Visit for more information.

About the DRCFA: On 9/15/09, operational control of Cobo Center transferred to the Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority, under a collaborative agreement by the Michigan State Legislature, the City of Detroit, and Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. Each of these entities has an appointed member on the DRCFA Board. Larry Alexander is Chairman the Board as the member appointed by the Governor of the State of Michigan. For more information visit: