MPEA Will No Longer Manage Navy Pier

DANICA TORMOHLEN, EDITOR-AT-LARGE
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Chicago, IL  In order to comply with reform legislation passed in May 2010, the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA), which owns and manages McCormick Place and Navy Pier, will lease Navy Pier to a newly formed not-for-profit corporation that will govern and manage the entertainment and convention complex. Under the new management structure, Navy Pier will operate under a separate budget beginning July 1.

MPEA Trustee and Chair Jim Reilly recommended the creation of the not-for-profit corporation in his report on future Navy Pier governance filed last week with the Governor and the Illinois General Assembly as required by MPEA reform legislation enacted last spring. MPEA has managed Navy Pier since 1989.

“The businesses and purposes of the two entities are very different,” Reilly wrote in his report. “In tight budgetary times, Navy Pier, as the junior partner, will often not receive its due. Further, the pier is past due for a major revitalization which will require persistence and stability over a four or five-year period and a separate, dedicated civic board is better suited to see through that vital project.”

MPEA will retain ownership of Navy Pier and will enter into a long-term, rent-free lease with the new 501 (c)(3) corporation, Navy Pier Inc., which will oversee the day-to-day operations. Navy Pier Inc. will be governed by a 13-member board led by Sarah Nava Garvey, a retired Boeing company executive who will serve as the transitional chairman. The co-chairman will be Patrick Daly, founder of Daly Group, a Chicago real estate and construction management firm. Reilly will remain on the board of Navy Pier Inc. until the end of 2011, when his term with the MPEA ends.

Reilly told Trade Show Executive that trade shows have always played an important role at Navy Pier, and they are an effective way to drive traffic to the facility. “As we develop a strategic plan for the pier, various options for Festival Hall and other areas of the pier will be considered. The variety of shows hosted in Festival Hall — from trade shows and special events to festivals and consumer shows — continue to make Navy Pier vibrant and a sought-after destination,” he said.

In 2011, Navy Pier will host the Chicago Flower and Garden Show, which is expected to attract 50,000 attendees, and Strictly Sail, which is expected to attract 20,000 attendees.

MPEA will provide an initial infusion of capital for deferred maintenance and seed money for pier redevelopment. Major physical changes to the pier would still have to be approved by MPEA, but a strategic plan currently being developed will be attached to the lease, enabling the new Navy Pier corporation to move ahead with pre-approved changes.

Under terms of the legislation, MPEA will also turn over management of McCormick Place to a private management company late this year. Reilly said that in shedding itself of these operational responsibilities, MPEA will be able to significantly reduce staffing and other operational costs, allowing McCormick Place to further reduce prices and become even more competitive in the convention and trade show business.

Reach Jim Reilly at (312) 791-6237 or mmarquisos@mpea.com