As a gigantic gem on the outer edge of South Loop, the McCormick Place we know and love today is actually very different from its original structure, which debuted in November of 1960. One disastrous fire and several additions later, this convention center now spans 2.7 million gross square feet making it the largest convention center in the U.S.
McCormick Place is named after former Chicago Tribune editor and publisher, Robert McCormick, who so strongly campaigned for a lakeside convention center for Chicago. The lead architect on the project, Alfred Shaw, was no stranger to monster sized buildings, as Shaw was one of the architects behind the Merchandise Mart. Construction on the project started in 1958 with the backing of $35 million and shortly opened two years later.
In 1967, the exposition hall was destroyed when a fire ripped through the area due to unique circumstances. At the time, the building actually contained an exhibit that was highly combustible so the sprinkler system and several hydrants were shut off on the first floor, which was why the fire spread as quickly as it did.
Over the years, lessons were learned and replacements and additions were made. Now, McCormick Place features the Lakeside Center, Arie Crown Theatre, North, South and West buildings. By the numbers that’s:
- 2.6 million sq. ft. of exhibit halls
- 1.3 million square feet all on one level
- 170 meeting rooms
- 600,000 square feet of meeting room space
- 6 ballrooms, 2 of which are the largest in the city and among the largest in the world
- Assembly seating for 18,000 people
- 4,249 seat theater (Arie Crown)
- 3 theaters seating 300 each
- Ceiling heights up to 50 feet
- Easy access to 5,800 parking spaces
Every February, McCormick Place hosts Chicago’s legendary Auto Show. Be sure to check back with us for McCormick Place events!
Roxie Ransom is a Leasing Consultant for The Lofts at Roosevelt Collection
Photo credit: Eric Allix Rogers