Chicago Auto Show reopens largest convention center in North America

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Chicago Auto Show reopens largest convention center in North America

After being closed for almost 18 months, Chicago’s McCormick Place once again hosts major trade fairs and events, once again welcomed more than 1,000 full-time employees and claims a robust event calendar. Following the NBA Draft Combine in June, the campus experienced a busy July that recalled pre-pandemic days, hosting three major events within days of each other that drew more than 150,000 guests. These included the Institute specialized in advertising (ASI), the Nike Tournament of Champions and a special edition of a flagship event that McCormick has been organizing for 60 years: the Chicago Auto Show.

Held July 15-19 as an indoor and outdoor summer event for the first time ever, the Chicago Auto Show is the nation’s largest and longest-running auto show. Launched in 1901, the large consumer show is produced by the Chicago Automobile Trade Association (CATA), which has hosted the event since 1935.

This year’s abbreviated five-day show welcomed more than 100,000 attendees, who converged on McCormick to watch the latest cars, trucks, SUVs and EVs on the market, get behind the wheel in indoor and outdoor road tests, check out demos and enjoy a brand new outdoor Street Fest with food trucks, local beers, street musicians and vehicle displays.

“We were thrilled to be able to open our doors to fans this summer for a special edition of the Chicago Auto Show, which turned out to be a great success,” said Dave Sloan, General Manager of the Auto Show. from Chicago. “This year’s event really demonstrated the versatility of McCormick Place. Being able to move from venue to venue and give the show a whole new look and a whole new personality opened my eyes. We are already looking forward to and planning next year’s show, which will revert to its traditional February schedule. “

He continued, “We are proud to be the event that helped reopen the site, as we are a long-time and trusted partner of McCormick Place…[the venue] is an important economic engine for our city and state, and we took very seriously the responsibility that came with it in helping to get it back on track.

According to McCormick officials, the show’s organizers began working with the convention center six months in advance to co-develop an opening plan, as it became clear from the start that the Auto Show of Chicago would pave the way for the reopening of the facility while bringing much-needed economic impact to the local and state economy.

The show’s organizers devised a host of pandemic safety protocols for the event, which made the show one of the first major events to be approved by city and state officials. However, shortly after the approvals were granted, Illinois entered the reopening of Phase 5, and most of these protocols no longer needed to be implemented, forcing organizers to rethink many. entry procedures. (Illinois Governor JB Pritzker has since ordered a statewide indoor mask warrant, which went into effect Aug. 30). Then there were a number of other hurdles that had to be overcome just to open the show.

“It seemed like every time a challenge was overcome, a new hurdle presented itself,” Sloan said. “For example, exhibitors have faced a shortage of display vehicles due to the global shortage of chips. Other conflicts included the shortened move-in window and the busy summer event schedule for the city we were competing against. “

He continued, “There is so much to do in Chicago in the summer that usually doesn’t overlap with our February show. We had to be creative in order to capture the attention of our attendees at a completely different time of the calendar year. It wasn’t easy, especially when you’re talking about a seven-decade tradition of the Chicago Auto Show held in February.

This year also marked the first time the show sold tickets exclusively online, which ended up being well received, according to CATA President Kevin Keefe.

“Talk about flying without a net,” Keefe said. “It will be interesting to see how the digital process has affected the demographics of our show, not to mention that we are excited to be able to receive all of the data associated with the online registration.

During the event, many exhibitors reported heavy foot traffic through their screens and indoor test tracks, with over 15,000 experiences offered between Jeep and Ram tracks.

“We were thrilled to be back at the Chicago Auto Show,” said exhibitor Jason Russ, Experience Manager at Stellantis. “The crowd exceeded our expectations on the spot, where we had constant movement on the Camp Jeep and Ram Truck Territory test tracks. Seeing so much foot traffic reinforces the fact that people always love to visit auto shows not only to see our latest products, but also to participate in the exciting driving activations that we offer with our vehicles.

With the difficult but successful 2021 edition of the show behind them, the show organizers look to the February 12-21 edition while taking into account all the valuable lessons learned from planning and executing a large consumer show during a pandemic.

“It was definitely a unique show that sparked our creativity and provided us with many key lessons as we moved forward,” Sloan said. “This special edition was the perfect blend of consumer engagement and interest, manufacturer ROI, digital analytics and data capture, and symbolism of reopening city and state. Not knowing what to expect when entering, we were pleasantly surprised with the result.

He added, “As we plan to return to a February show next year, we will continue to carefully evaluate all of the results of this show and decide what aspects of this event we could implement into our show at. the future.”

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