The adaptive reuse design of the old arena incorporates 45,000 square feet of outdoor flex space, which includes a large terrace now called Cobo Square, which
is the capstone of the $279 million dollar renovation. This spring, when events have not rented the space, the terrace will be used for programming that includes art fairs, exercise and yoga, biergartens and other elements designed to connect Cobo Center to the community and the downtown Detroit culture. It also infuses activity into the center between major events.
"I think the most important part of the reinvention of Cobo Center was the adaptive reuse of the old arena," said Thom Connors, regional vice president of SMG and general manager of Cobo Center. "By cutting part of it away and creating a new atrium, it really tied the whole renovation together and gave the view from the main concourse out to the river and across to Canada. It brings people down to the newer, improved south side of the building and the majesty of the river."
And the major events at Cobo Center show a remarkable return on investment with 85 hosted in 2015 compared with 35 in 2010,a gain realized while the building was under construction. The convention center now operates with 400 event days each year, double its pre-renovation amount of 200 days. 2016 is on track to beat that record.
"The Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority (DRCFA) began on a mission of regional cooperation and through the success of this renovation, became an example of what is possible when people work in consensus," said Larry Alexander, chairman of the DRCFA and CEO of the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau.
There are very few second acts for arenas in America," added Connors. "In the automotive engineering and manufacturing areas, we're now back on the map as the place to hold your meeting or come and host a trade show. Some of them are now permanently reestablished at Cobo Center as a result of this successful reinvention and renovation of the facility. None of it could have happened without the will and the cooperation of the region."
Larry Alexander concluded that, "We're not done yet. We have to continue to strive to stay ahead of the game. We want to be sure we're doing more with the capabilities of this facility for the future of meetings and conventions."