Message from the General Manager
At our Convention Centers we have had to re-assess everything we do repeatedly as we move further away from COVID. It has become an opportune time for all of us to focus on three key elements: our people, our places, and our clients.
- Karen Totaro, general manager Huntington Place/ASM Global
Never have I ever been prouder of our team members then what I witnessed this last year as we had to pick ourselves up and prepare for an unchartered future. I am going to guess that is true for so many of you. It is never too late to celebrate those around us.
What has been working in our venue at Huntington Place in Detroit and could work for others:
Authenticity…. when the going gets tough you cannot “fake” caring about your team members and what each individual may be going through in their personal lives. We have taken this word and put it into action every single day. We recognize active listening and compassion and spend the time with team members. We have to trust our teams to have real conversations, hard conversations and the ability to find resolution.
Diversity is our Superpower…We have an incredibly diverse and inclusive group of people at Huntington Place and I am most in awe of the “mindset” that trickles through every level of hiring. While diversity is our superpower, inclusion is the secret sauce. We all want to be seen for who we are and what we can bring to the table. By fostering inclusion and giving everyone an equal voice at the table we have better ideas, better deliverables, and better teamwork.
One Team!...The magic happens when we each take a moment to walk in another’s shoes. We had a crazy weekend in March with over 50,000 people in the venue. Parking was non-stop and it was freezing out. Our F & B General Manager took it upon himself to ensure a carafe of hot coffee got sent out to our parking team…. they still talk about it months later because someone thought about them when they were really struggling. Low cost, high reward, ONE TEAM.
We are the communities we serve; we live and work in them and want to ensure they thrive. We need to look at our buildings with fresh eyes. Hybrid meetings continue to grow and we’re going away from a fixed studio structure and investing in the talent, equipment, and options to create a studio in any location within 24 hours.
So many of our creative solutions are coming from the staff working on the frontlines. They pick up quickly as to what the stressors are for our clients and then we pounce and address by offering options before it grows into something more. Our leadership team spends a great deal of time taking the show team out for fun, checking in on them throughout each day, doing all we can to ensure confidence. Everyone just wants to know it is all going to be ok….and it will be.
The plan for the Civic Center is a noble plan, a plan to stir the imagination. Its realization should be undertaken with a determination that will not lag until the project is completed, until this symbol of the living spirit of Detroit is raised upon the banks of the mighty river for all the world to see.
Detroit City Planning Department
Civic Center Plan – October 1946
Our Goal is very simple, to be the best convention destination in the world.
Who We Are
We are a team of passionate Detroiters who love to share our amazing city with everyone who visits. As hospitality ambassadors we are proud participants in the resurgence of Detroit. Our character is authentic and our service is genuine.
What We Believe
We care greatly for our guests and for one another. Our diversity is our strength. We respect one another’s talents by working together and we aspire to create lasting memories for every visitor to Detroit.
How We Succeed
We succeed by creating an environment with trustworthy, enthusiastic and caring people who embrace change. We work together as one very determined team focused entirely on the success of every event. We are only satisfied if we have exceeded expectations.
Detroit has had a profound impact on the world, from putting the world on wheels to the Motown sound, it has crafted American culture. Metro Detroit has always been a great place to work, live and visit. The region is currently undergoing a renaissance with new developments and attractions. Downtown Detroit’s development boom is unparalleled in the country, with restoration of the Detroit RiverWalk, a revitalized General Motors headquarters, the Dequindre Cut GreenWay, and the construction of Campus Martius Park in the heart of downtown. Along the beautifully restored international riverfront is Huntington Place, a world-class meeting and convention facility.
Huntington Place is one of the largest convention centers in the nation. Built by the City of Detroit, it was originally opened in 1960 and named Cobo Hall in honor of former Detroit Mayor Albert E. Cobo (1950-1957) whose vision to build a mega-convention center was realized after his death. The center and its attached arena initially cost $56 million and took four years to complete. It is located on the site where Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, a French colonist, first set foot and landed on the banks of the river in July 1701 and claimed the area for France in the name of King Louis XIV.
As one of the nation’s first mega convention centers, Cobo Hall became even larger when renovations and expansions were completed in 1989. At a cost of $225 million, it nearly doubled in size to 2.4 million total square feet and was re-named Cobo Conference/Exhibition Center.
In 2019, Chemical Bank was awarded the naming rights to the venue and then merged with TCF Bank that later merged with Huntington Bank. Now, Huntington Place offers 723,000 square feet of prime exhibit space in five exhibit halls ranging in size from 100,000 to 200,000 square feet. The venue's flexible design allows the adjoining four exhibit halls on the main floor to form 623,000 square feet of contiguous exhibit space.
The first convention in the facility was held in 1960 by the Florist Telegraph Delivery (FTD). The first event was the 43rd Auto Industry Dinner on October 17, 1960. President Eisenhower was the keynote speaker, and the ceremony aired live on WXYZ-TV.
Since 1965, the largest event held in Huntington Place is the nation’s premier automobile show, The North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), occurring annually. This prestigious event draws hundreds of international press and suppliers during its initial five days and has a spectacular charity preview party for 11,000 guests the evening before the public opening. Since 1976, the Charity Preview has raised an average of $2.6 million yearly for southeastern Michigan children’s charities. After the Charity Preview party, the NAIAS is open to the public for ten days, drawing, more than 800,000 attendees.
The 12,000-seat Cobo Arena opened in 1960 and was home to the Detroit Pistons from 1961-1978. It hosted great concerts such as the Doors, Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, the Who, Bruce Springsteen, Kid Rock and many others. The arena also hosted Presidential speeches, boxing, wrestling, figure skating, roller derby and local Detroit-area graduation ceremonies.
In 1987, the City of Detroit began operations of the city’s elevated light-rail system, the People Mover The Detroit People Mover connects attendees to all center events with hotels and restaurants in the Renaissance Center, Greektown, Bricktown, Times Square, and throughout the Detroit Financial District. The latest estimates show the Detroit People Mover bringing 35,000 visitors a day into Huntington Place for the NAIAS, nearly one third the average daily attendance.
Many past sitting U.S. Presidents since 1960 (Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, Gerald R. Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, William J. Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama) has addressed a convention or attended an event at the facility.
In 2019, the venue was renamed Huntington Place in the largest naming rights deal for a convention center in history. The 22-year, $1.5 million-a-year contract supports the center's ability to meet the state mandate for the venue to no longer require state subsidies by the year 2024.
Today, Huntington Place is managed and operated by the Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority (DRCFA). The five-member Authority Board consists of one representative from each of five government agencies – the City of Detroit, State of Michigan and the three metro-Detroit counties of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb. The DRCFA recently completed a $279 million expansion and upgrade of the center in 2015.
In October 2010, the DRCFA awarded the contract for operations management of the facility to ASM Global, the world leader in venue management, marketing and development. On January 5, 2012 senior officials from ASM Global and the NAIAS signed a then, unprecedented five-year contract that keeps the auto show in the Motor City through 2017. In 2017, officials from both parties signed a contract for an additional eight years, keeping NAIAS in Huntington Place through 2025.
The Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority (Authority) and Huntington Place recognize the importance of equal opportunity employment. Our employment practices prohibit discrimination based on race, color, creed, religion, gender, age, national origin, disability, veteran status, marital status or any other legally protected classification. This practice applies to all decisions about recruitment, hiring, compensation, benefits, transfers, promotions, training and education, social programs, layoffs, separations and other terms of employment.
Employment opportunities are and shall be open to all qualified candidates solely on the basis of their experience, aptitude, abilities and training. Advancement is and shall be based entirely on the individual’s achievement, performance, ability, attitude and potential for promotion.
The Authority and Huntington Place are committed to creating and maintaining a business environment in which all personnel have the opportunity to develop and contribute fully to our collective success. We encourage all personnel at our facility to work together to foster a business community based on mutual respect and support which values each individual’s dignity, abilities and unique contributions. The Authority and Huntington Place expect that all relationships among persons in the workplace will be business-like and free of bias, prejudice and harassment.