By Mark Kleis
Thursday, Mar 3rd, 2011 @ 8:30 am
 
One of the most key auto shows each year, especially for American automakers, is the Detroit Auto Show, which is also known as the North American International Auto Show. But for the last several years many have complained that the facility was growing outdated, and that some automakers may consider pulling out from the shower and going elsewhere if nothing was done about it.

Today, a plan has finally been revealed and approved by local government and business leaders that will entail a $221 million upgrade, expansion and overhaul to the Cobo Center in order to keep the convention center a competitive destination for major auto shows.

The changes will include a key new 40,000 square foot ballroom, an atrium intended to deliver better views of the Detroit River via a three-story glass window, and a wall-sized digital screen on the exterior of the building. Other changes include improved communication systems, improved access control, parking enhancements that include 20 percent more spaces, an enclosed loading dock, finish upgrades for show areas including new walls and carpet, out of view work areas and a new closed circuit security and fire protection system.

"When we started out on this process, we rejected the idea that this should be merely 'good enough,'" said Larry Alexander, chairman of the Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority, the appointed body designated to oversee the Cobo Center since being transferred to The Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority in 2009. "We want to make this the kind of first-class facility it was years ago."

The changes are expected to come in phases, with the first two phases already completed, although they were mostly catered towards bringing electrical and other behind-the-scenes equipment up to date. The full process is expected to last until 2014, with most of the construction occurring during summer sessions.