by Sarah J.F. Braley | December 01, 2010

New practices at Chicago's McCor­mick Place, aimed at reducing costs for conventions, began Phase II in November.

Phase I, enacted in August, expanded exhibitor rights, put new vehicle policies in place, reduced union crew sizes and lowered food prices.

Phase II brought free Wi-Fi to the facility and reduced the parking rate from $19 to $14 in Lot B. The Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, which manages the convention complex, has refinanced its debts and plans to add a new tower to the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place by December 2014. Phase III will bring in an outside management company to run the facility.

The reforms already have yielded results, as the center has commitments for $1.6 billion worth of estimated direct expenditures for the future. Many legacy clients, such as the National Restaurant Asso­ciation Show, which was threatening to leave the city, have reupped.

The changes at McCormick Place have come within a few months. "We knew we had to act quickly," said Jim Reilly, trustee of the MPEA, who will implement all the reforms before his 18-month term expires in November 2012. "There is still a lawsuit pending from the Teamsters and carpenters [over the legislation implementing the reforms], but we're pretty confident we will win."