Exhibition Games

Star Wars creator’s proposed museum jeopardizes trade shows like IMTS

The home of some of the world’s most important trade shows could be facing a partial demolition that would affect future contracts, including the manufacturing industry.

Chicago’s McCormick Place has been home to trade shows and conventions since it opened in 1960. Currently, the International Manufacturing Technology Show is locked in until 2019 with a contract to hold the show at the locale for the next three years. But all of this and more could be in jeopardy, as Mayor Rahm Emanuel has proposed a demolition of the Lakeside Center building, which is a crucial annex to many of the trade shows.

The Chicago mayor is facing criticism for his initiatives regarding the convention center, mainly because they are aimed to make room for George Lucas’s Museum of Narrative Art, which many feel should not take priority. The following video, released in October 2015 following the city’s approval of the project, includes renderings of what the museum would look like.

Loss of the Lakeside Center would be a blow for some of the city’s trade shows, notably the biennial International Manufacturing Technology Show, the city’s largest. The massive exhibition, which occupies the entire complex and is booked through 2022, can draw more than 100,000 visitors from more than 100 countries, packing hotel rooms, restaurants and taxis.

A number of major medical conferences also use Lakeside Center, including those of the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the Radiological Society of North America. The medical professionals who attend those shows tend to be big spenders who are prized by the city’s hospitality industry.

Natasha Korecki of Politico detailed some of these responses this week. “Then there’s City Hall and Rahm Emanuel’s attempts this week to sell the Lucas museum as an investment in the city’s future,” Korecki said, citing the following commentary 

“Emanuel’s upside-down priorities for the Lucas museum,” by Crain’s Joe Cahill: “There may be good reasons to tear down McCormick Place East, the oldest part of Chicago’s lakefront convention complex. But clearing space for ‘Star Wars’ mogul George Lucas’s Museum of Narrative Art isn’t one of them. Desperate to keep Lucas from taking his museum elsewhere, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is prepared to sacrifice an important economic asset without a well-developed plan to replace it. Late last week, he proposed building the museum on the lakefront site of McCormick Place East, also called Lakeside Center.”

“EARTH TO CITY HALL, PLEASE RETURN TO YOUR PLANET — ‘Emanuel’s Lucas Museum plan relies on $1.2 billion in borrowing, a lot of help from state,’ by Chicago Tribune’s Hal Dardick: ‘Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s new proposal to build movie mogul George Lucas’ museum at the lakefront site now occupied by McCormick Place East would require borrowing nearly $1.2 billion, city officials said Monday. To pay for the museum and building new replacement convention space, Emanuel is asking the state to continue a 2 percent hotel tax now being used to pay off U.S. Cellular Field debt, to extend four other taxes and to keep on providing up to $15 million a year in subsidies. In addition, Lucas would still pour $743 million into the project, as he planned to at the initially proposed site, added deputy Mayor Steve Koch. The borrowed money would be needed to reconfigure the convention center complex and replace space lost at the building that would be razed, the officials said.'”

Professionals from a range of industries are familiar with McCormick place’s trade shows. EA editors attended the 2015 FABTECH show just last November. The immediate future, at least, appears to be safe. Peter Eelman, vice president of exhibitions and business development for The Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT), released a statement on the IMTS website Tuesday. “You may have heard through various media outlets that there is a potential project, known as the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, which while still in the discussion phase may have an effect on future space at McCormick Place in Chicago. First of all, we want to assure you that this project is in the proposal stage and will NOT affect any exhibitor or floor space for IMTS 2016.”

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