Convention Center Follies: Politics, Power, and Public Investment in American Cities

By Heywood T. Sanders | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
Promises and Realities

Laying out a “long range” strategic plan for Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center in January 1990, consultant Charles H. Johnson described a vibrant and growing convention and tradeshow market. He noted that “facility space requirements have been growing at a rate of eight percent per year” and “Future growth is expected to continue.” He illustrated that finding with two charts, one depicting sharp upward growth in both tradeshow exhibit space use from 1971 to 1987 (8.66 percent) and attendance (6.47 percent), the other showing an even more dramatic upward slope, with annual increases in the size of Tradeshow “200” events—the 200 largest conventions and tradeshows each year—continuing from 1988 though 2000.1

For Johnson and his client, the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, the presumption of constant and predictable future growth was vital in justifying ever more space and investment in McCormick Place, with the conclusion that “McCormick Place must be bold so that it can stake its claim to maintain the largest events and increasingly attract international delegates.”2

The presumption of industry growth was just as vital for Johnson and convention center backers in Boston and Massachusetts in 1997. Using data from the annual Tradeshow Week Data Book, Johnson argued, “Over the last three years, the number of exhibitions and the amount of demand for exhibit space increased dramatically,” referring to a table showing exhibit space use growing from 399 million square feet in 1994 to over 452 million for 1996, with attendance increasing from 85.3 million to 102.2 million. Under the heading “Future Growth,” Johnson reported projections from the Center for Exhibition Industry Research that the convention and tradeshow industry would reach 550 million square feet of space used and 140 million annual attendees by 2000.3

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Convention Center Follies: Politics, Power, and Public Investment in American Cities
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Part I - The Race to Build 1
  • Chapter 1 - Building Boom 3
  • Chapter 2 - Paying for the Box 42
  • Chapter 3 - Promises and Realities 85
  • Chapter 4 - They Will Come… and Spend 124
  • Chapter 5 - Missing Impact 150
  • Part II - From Economics to Politics 209
  • Chapter 6 - Chicago- Bolstering the Business District 211
  • Chapter 7 - Atlanta- Enhancing Property Values 260
  • Chapter 8 - St. Louis- Protection from Erosion 341
  • Conclusion - The Cities Business Builds 430
  • Note on Sources 453
  • Notes 457
  • Index 501
  • Acknowledgments 513
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