Category: Community Published on Wednesday, 11 September 2013 10:28 Written by Donald James
With a spectacular evening-into-night view of the city’s skyline, the Detroit River, and the Windsor’s skyline, all serving as backdrops of splendor, more than 400 VIP guests gathered in downtown Detroit on Saturday, Sept. 7, to witness the grand opening of Cobo Center’s new Grand Riverview Ballroom and adjacent atrium. Following the ceremonial ribbon-cutting by the five-member Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority (DRCFA), guests slowly meandered through the Grand Riverview Ballroom for the public’s first look at the massive transformed facility. DRCFA members in attendance included Larry Alexander (chair), Dr. Juliette Okotie-Eboh (vice chair, Wayne County representative), Michael Carroll (Oakland County representative), Joseph Abdoo (Macomb County representative), and Waymon Guillebeaux (City of Detroit representative and project director).
Amid a festive atmosphere, punctuated with class and excitement, guests were entertained by audio visual displays, aerial acrobats, music and choirs, all of which culminated with a strolling buffet. The VIP guests learned that the new Grand Riverview Ballroom offers an impressive 40,000 square-feet of space, dividable by a retractable wall. The stage is equipped with hydraulic lifts for dynamic entrances by respective podium speakers and event leaders. The ballroom also has a 40-foot-tall ceiling, which is adorned with an array of dramatic and high-tech lighting systems and grids, inclusive of new-wave spotlights and decorative sconces. The venue floor is covered with custom-made, but durable, Axminster carpeting.
The ballroom uniquely features a 78,000 square-feet curtain wall made of glass that surrounds the entire room. The futuristic and multi-purpose facility can accommodate 4, 500 people in a reception setting, while providing seating for 3,500 in a theater-style formation, or 2,250 attending banquets.
Cobo officials announced that the $115 million Grand Riverview Ballroom is an ideal venue for multiple types of meetings, as well as conventions, conferences, banquets, wedding, religious gathering, and graduations. One VIP guests was overheard saying, “What a great place for a New Year’s Eve Party!”
On the floor directly below the Grand Riverview Ballroom is 21,000 square-feet of space that can be strategically divided to host up to 11 meetings and breakout rooms. Cobo Center’s new atrium, which is adjacent to the ballroom, is also impressive.
The three-story atrium is 250 feet long, 80 feet tall, and 65 feet wide. It touts floor space of 30,000 square feet and has the capacity to accommodate 1,200 people standing, 600 in banquet style, and 1,000 in a theater-style setting. The construction cost of the new atrium was announced at $22.6 million. “What you see in the Grand Riverview Ballroom and adjacent atrium are more than just renovations,” said a beaming Alexander, who also chairs the Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority. “This new ballroom and the many rooms below, as well as the adjacent atrium, the gourmet kitchen and the outdoor terrace, are all part of Cobo Center’s total convergence from what was once an aging, decrepitated structure, but is now a unique, efficient, state-of-the-art facility. This is what is called adapted reuse of space.”
The present configuration and transformation of the Grand Riverview Ballroom and Atrium are in complete contrast to how the area once looked and how it was originally used. Before the transformation, the ballroom and atrium now stand where the old 12,000-seat Cobo Hall Arena once stood. From 1961 to 1978, Cobo Arena was home to the Detroit Pistons of the National Basketball Association (NBA), after Cobo Hall opened in 1960. Mayor Dave Bing, who was drafted by the Pistons in 1967 and was named one of the NBA’s all-time 50 greatest players, played at Cobo Arena for many years.
Cobo Arena also hosted hundreds of major concerts and sporting events. Music icons such James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stone, KISS, Little Richard and many more played memorable dates at the old arena. Additionally, Cobo Arena held numerous boxing matches, indoor track and field events, and even arena football games. Perhaps the old arena’s crowning moment arrived in the summer of 1963, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the downtown venue. His speech in Detroit was given just two months before he mesmerized the world with the same oratory masterpiece in Washington, DC, at the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
Alexander said that the construction, which transformed the arena into the new Grand Riverview Ballroom and Atrium, began in February 2012. He also said that more transformational work is scheduled, which will include a state-of-the-art television broadcast studio with uplink capability, giant video walls that will carry information and advertising messages, an open air terrace which will overlook the Detroit River, and more. Overall, the entire Cobo Center renovation and construction price tag is $279 million. All work is expected to be completed in 2015.
“I am so excited, because this transformation is the result of hard work,” said Okotie-Eboh. “It’s a strong demonstration of the regional cooperation that exists between Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties, along with the City of Detroit and the State of Michigan. We have made many great decisions along the way, and we’ve come in on time and on budget.”
Wayne County Executive Robert A. Ficano added, “Just look at this place, it is outstanding. We’ve gone a long way to protect our trademark here at Cobo Center, which is the North American International Auto Show. However, the massive transformation of Cobo will make a huge difference in what local, national and international people who attend conventions, trade shows and other events will see when they walk into Cobo Center.”
According to Alexander, the new ballroom and atrium, as well as the other projected developments at Cobo Center will and have already injected new life into Detroit.
“This is not the old Cobo,” Alexander said. “What you see tonight, and will see over the next year or so, will bring about a total transformation of Cobo Center. This total transformation will return Cobo Center and metro Detroit back to the world stage as premier destinations and leaders for holding national and international conventions, trade shows and meetings. As a result of Cobo Center’s transformation, we have already booked more conventions and meetings, and we have more national and international organizations expressing an interest in bringing their events to our city to be a part of Detroit’s great comeback.”
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