Yet, despite its distance from hotels, entertainment and restaurants or any other form of urban life, it worked. Chicago, then as now, lay at the nation's crossroads. Las Vegas and Orlando convention centers were mere glimmers in their builders' eyes.
Fifty years later, McCormick Place remains in the middle of nowhere. Despite the addition of one gleaming exhibit hall after the other, McCormick also has seen better days, with complex and costly union rules having siphoned off attendance to competing venues.
Those rules have been amended but, for many an exhibitor, it's too little to late. And the fees charged by show managers remain exorbitant, to put it mildly.
So, what would it take to woo conventioneers back? Last week, Mayor Rahm Emanuel indicated a college basketball stadium would help do the trick when he unveiled plans to construct a $173-million venue for DePaul University's Blue Demons on a parcel adjacent to McCormick Place. (For related news story, click here.)
Still scratching your head? Turns out the stadium also will serve as a venue for small and medium size trade shows that otherwise might bypass Chicago. It additionally will anchor a planned entertainment district consisting of restaurants, bars and a pair of new hotels, all of which is good news for regional designers and builders.
But it still doesn't make much sense. McCormick Place will remain costly, and a pair of new hotels will only place attendees in closer proximity to a venue that, despite the stadium and a handful of restaurants, is still in the middle of nowhere. And, with this plan, going nowhere fast.