Worldwide Entertainment & Convention Venue Management
Home > Case Studies > Cobo Center

Cobo Center




Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority


Cobo Center is the 17th largest convention center in the United States. Built by the City of Detroit, it was originally opened in 1960 and named Cobo Hall in honor of former Detroit Mayor Albert E. Cobo (1950-1957).
Today, Cobo Center is managed and operated by the Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority (DRCFA). The five-member Authority Board consists of one representative from each of five government agencies – the City of Detroit, State of Michigan and the three metro-Detroit counties of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb.
In October 2010, the DRCFA awarded the contract for operations management of Cobo Center to SMG, the world leader in venue management, marketing and development.


7 years


  • 723,000 square feet of prime exhibit space
  • Five exhibit halls ranging in size from 100,000 to 200,000 square feet


  • Rental of the facility has quadrupled since 2010
  • State subsidy required for operations has decreased from $20M in 2008 to $7.2M in 2012 to $2.8M in 2016
  • Under SMG management, IATSE (Stagehand) hours have doubled
  • Green Meeting Industry Council APEX Certified Green Venue
  • Operations team measures every Kilowatt of electricity, every Mlb. of Steam and every gallon of water consumed in real time to track and conserve utility costs Signed a 5 year contract with the Detroit Auto Dealers Association for the International North American Auto Show (NAIAS.)
  • Lowered operating deficit $5 million in first three years.
  • Brought in venue assessment team made up of SMG operations executives to create a punch list of 75 immediate that were programmed into SMG Smart Maintenance software and addressed in first year of operations.
  • Transitioned accounting systems within 60 days to SMG’s proprietary and industry focused system giving the organization the ability to report on an event basis for the first time.
  • Restructured and expanded Sales and Marketing departments and established structure to work with the DMCVB as combined operations to double event revenue in first year, increase from 6 to 14 annual citywide conventions by year 4.
  • New website launched with online ordering, saleable space for events, a full press room and webcast hosting.
  • Launched a “New Cobo Center” brand campaign.
  • Developed and initiated e-autofeedback customer survey system that yields a 39% return rate and an average overall 97.2% positive rating of the facility.
  • Gross income for Cobo Center has increased by 146% since 2012
Back to
Tickets & Deals