As thousands of car enthusiasts converge on the North American International Auto Show this month in search of the most striking new vehicles, they may discover that Cobo Center's $267 million renovation is one of the stars.
Now at the halfway point of its redesign, Cobo Center has transformed for the 2014 show.
"People will be shocked by the new look of the interior space," said Thom Connors, general manager of Cobo Center for SMG, the company hired to manage the venue. "Cobo Center's got some sizzle."
The old Cobo Arena -- once home to the Detroit Pistons -- has given way to a grand ballroom, upscale meeting rooms and a stunning atrium.
Renovation has been in progress since September 2009, but the improvements largely have been behind the scenes. Journalists, suppliers and members of the public attending the show will certainly notice the changes this year.
One of the most visually captivating new features is the 30,000-square-foot atrium, which features a glass wall overlooking the Detroit River. Visitors can gaze 80 feet up marble-covered columns.
Another notable new feature is the 40,000-square-foot Grand Riverview ballroom with its 40-foot ceiling. The ballroom can seat 3,500 people. Movable partitions offer flexibility, and a large stage lift adds to an event's showmanship.
"You can put products, cars [or] people on the lift and have a very dramatic entrance," Connors said. The stage rises 50 feet from the loading dock to a 6-foot stage height.
Cobo Center also has added 20,000 square feet of meeting space and put in an 8,000-square-foot production kitchen behind the ballroom.