The Lodge Freeway passes underneath, then immediately comes up to its end at street level (Jefferson Avenue).
|Location||1 Washington Blvd.
Detroit, Michigan 48226
|Owner||Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority|
|Former name(s)||Cobo Hall, Cobo Arena|
Cobo Center is a major convention center situated along Jefferson and Washington avenues in downtown Detroit. It was named for Albert E. Cobo, mayor of Detroit from 1950 to 1957. Designed by Gino Rossetti, the center opened in 1960. Expanded in 1989, the present 2,400,000 sq ft (220,000 m2) complex contains 723,000 sq ft (67,200 m2) of exhibition space, with 623,000 square feet contiguous. Preliminary construction to update and further expand the center's exhibition space began October 1, 2009, by the facility's current owner, the Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority (DRCFA). Along with adjacent Joe Louis Arena, the center is served by the Detroit People Mover with its own station. Cobo Center has several large, attached parking garages, and direct access to the Lodge Freeway. The facility is located along the Detroit International Riverfront.
Cobo Center is the home of the North American International Auto Show or NAIAS, which it hosts each January, and Autorama, which it hosts each March. There are about 5,000 hotel rooms in downtown Detroit with 4,000 hotel rooms within walking distance of the center.
The Center and its attached arena initially cost $56 million and took four years to complete. It is located on the site where Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, a French colonist, first set foot and landed on the banks of the river in July 1701 and claimed the area for France in the name of King Louis XIV.
As one of the nation’s first mega convention centers, Cobo became even larger when renovations and expansions were completed in 1989. At a cost of $225 million, it nearly doubled in size to 2.4 million total square feet and was renamed Cobo Conference/Exhibition Center. Now, the Center offers 723,000 square feet of prime exhibit space in five exhibit halls ranging in size from 100,000 to 200,000 square feet. Cobo’s flexible design allows the adjoining four exhibit halls on the main floor to form 623,000 square feet of contiguous exhibit space.
The first convention at Cobo Center was held in 1960 by the Florist Telegraph Delivery (FTD). The first event was the 43rd Auto Industry Dinner on October 17, 1960. President Dwight D. Eisenhower was the keynote speaker, and the ceremony aired live on WXYZ-TV.
Since 1965, the largest event held in Cobo Center is the nation’s premier automobile show, The North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), occurring annually in January. This prestigious event draws hundreds of international press and suppliers during its initial five days and has a spectacular charity preview party for 11,000 guests the evening before the public opening. [Cite: Detroit Free Press 2013] Since 1976, the Charity Preview has raised an average of $2.4 million yearly for southeastern Michigan children’s charities. After the Charity Preview party, the NAIAS is open to the public for ten days, drawing, on average, 735,000 attendees.[Cite: WXYZ Channel 7 2013]
The Joe Louis Arena, named after boxer and former heavyweight champion Joe Louis, who grew up in Detroit, was built adjacent and connected to the Cobo Center, and completed in 1979 at a cost of $57 million. It has a seating capacity of 20,058 (including suites); 20,338 for end-stage concerts and 21,152 for center-stage concerts. It is the home of the Detroit Red Wings of the National Hockey League, who brought six Stanley Cup Playoffs to the Joe, winning four of them, two at home. The Joe Louis Arena played host to the 1980 Republican National Convention. Former Arena Football League team the Detroit Drive also had success during its time at the arena, playing in six consecutive Arena Bowls from 1988 to 1993 and winning four of them. In addition, the Joe Louis Arena is a concert and production venue, hosting such greats as Cirque du Soleil. Currently, the Joe Louis Arena is still used as expanded event space for major events in Cobo Center under partnership agreements with Olympia Entertainment.
In 1987, the City of Detroit began operations of the city’s elevated light-rail system, the People Mover, with stations in both Cobo Center and the Joe Louis Arena. The Detroit People Mover connects attendees to all Center events with hotels and restaurants in the Renaissance Center, Greektown, Bricktown, Times Square, and throughout the Detroit Financial District.
Every sitting U.S. President since 1960 (Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush) has addressed a convention or attended an event at Cobo Center. Prior to becoming President, Barack Obama also visited, but he has not yet done so since taking office.
In 2009, Cobo Center became owned (under a 30-year capital lease) 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. The DRCFA is currently overseeing a $299 million expansion and upgrade of Cobo Center that is scheduled for completion in Jan. 2015. Consensus agreement from the authority is needed for all decisions, and it has become a model for regional cooperation in Southeast Michigan.
In October 2010, the DRCFA awarded the contract for operations management of Cobo Center to SMG, an international venue management, marketing and development company.[Cite: WXYZ Channel 7 News 2013] The success of this new contract is seen in the statement made by the NAIAS (North American International Auto Show, the center's largest show) after the 2011 auto show: “The ongoing changes and renovations we will see at Cobo Center under the DRCFA and SMG will keep our collective teams making noted championship runs for years to come.” On January 5, 2012, the NAIAS and Cobo Center signed an unprecedented 5-year contract to host the auto show in Detroit through 2017.
In 2011, Cobo Center became a Lighthouse facility with Detroit's Project Lighthouse, a security partnership with 30 downtown facilities that combine security information and resources, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to assist those in need in the Downtown Detroit area. Each Lighthouse facility works in conjunction with a network of all major law enforcement units. [Cite: CBS Detroit 2012; Detroit 2020 WXYZ Channel 7 News 2012; Downtown Detroit Partnership 2013]
Cobo Arena 
The 12,000-seat Cobo Arena was attached to Cobo Center, and is currently being renovated for adaptive re-use as a 40,000 square foot ballroom with pre-function and meeting spaces overlooking the Detroit River.
Cobo Arena was originally built in 1960 and served as the home of the Detroit Pistons from 1961-1978. It hosted many concerts through the years including The Doors, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, The Who, Bruce Springsteen, Kiss and Detroit native Madonna, along with many others. Bob Seger recorded part of his live album Nine Tonight at Cobo Hall. The arena also hosted Presidential speeches, boxing, wrestling, figure skating, roller derby and local Detroit-area graduation ceremonies. Cobo Arena was also home to the Detroit Rockers of the National Professional Indoor Soccer League.
Photo gallery 
- Cobo Center Cuts a Deal with SMG; Thom Connors To Be GM, Venues Today 2010
- North American International Auto Show is hit with car fans, WXYZ Channel 7 News, 2013
- 2013 Detroit auto show charity preview: Want to get in on the glitz and glamour? It's not too late, Detroit Free Press 2013
- Project Lighthouse Aims to Keep Detroit Residents Safe CBS Detroit, 2012
- Project Lighthouse Promotes Safety in Detroit's Central Business District Detroit 2020 WXYZ Channel 7 News 2012
- Project Lighthouse Downtown Detroit Partnership 2013
|Home of the Detroit Pistons
1961 – 1978