CHICAGO (CBS) – An out-of-state company that already operates Soldier Field has been named to run McCormick Place.
Suburban Philadelphia-based SMG Management Inc. has been chosen to operate the convention complex beginning July 1, according to an announcement from the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, better known a McPier.
SMG has served as a private manager for more than 200 public and private facilities in nine countries, including convention centers, stadiums, theaters and other venues. Among the other facilities the firm operates, in addition to Soldier Field, are Reliant Park in Houston and Direct Energy Centre in Toronto.
Crain’s Chicago Business reports SMG beat out another Philadelphia company, Global Spectrum, for the job of running McCormick Place.
Previously, McCormick Place was managed directly by McPier, which is a joint venture between the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois.
The overhaul began after several conventions pulled out of McCormick Place in the fall of 2009. Conventioneers complained that union fees were too high, and there were too many different unions, jurisdictions and work rules involved in the setup process.
Afterward, the entire 13-member McPier board was ousted.
Then state lawmakers passed a bill that cut labor costs by allowing exhibitors to do their own setup, and also by letting them use outside electricians and bring in their own food, bypassing convention center unions. It doubled the ground transportation tax charged on trips to and from Chicago’s airports to boost tourism spending.
Last year, Mayor Richard M. Daley said McCormick Place should be privatized altogether, arguing such a move would cut costs.
McPier also used to manage Navy Pier directly, but handed over operation of the renowned tourist attraction to a newly-formed not-for-profit corporation in January.
The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.