has plan for expansion at Detroit convention center
Michigan - High-ranking Detroit officials are meeting with
a Las Vegas casino and convention center operator to discuss
taking over and expanding Cobo Center, Deputy Mayor Anthony
Adams said Tuesday.
Venetian Group, which runs the Venetian
Resort and Casino and the Sands Expo and Convention Center
in Las Vegas, visited Detroit during the North American International
Auto Show on Monday to make a pitch to officials from Detroit
and Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties on its vision for a facility
that would include a casino, hotel and expanded Cobo Hall.
Kwame Kilpatrick talked with the casino group Tuesday in Washington,
D.C., where he was attending the U.S. Conference of Mayors,
energetic round of meetings with key political and business
leaders demonstrated the group's seriousness, and their proposal
was immediately met with delight by Wayne and Oakland county
officials, who balk at the prospect of more public dollars being
used to expand Cobo Center.
is the deal of a lifetime. We're not talking millions, we're
talking billions of dollars here," said Oakland County
Executive L. Brooks Patterson. "If the mayor doesn't jump
on this opportunity, then I've underestimated him."
County Executive Robert Ficano said the key to the deal was
to make sure that the Cobo expansion occurs without any taxpayer
auto show generates $500 to $700 million, and if a company came
in and said the same thing, what would we do for them? We would
bend over backwards for them," he said. "The bottom
line is with a private investor, we're not going to have to
raise taxes to do it."
casino group also met with the Port Authority to discuss the
possibility of selling bonds for the project, labor groups and
local bankers as well as scouting the city for possible locations
for the facility. Gov. Jennifer Granholm also was brought into
the discussions within the last few days, said Liz Boyd, Granholm's
the proposal has some benefits, said Adams, it has one huge
drawback -- the lack of a casino license.
are other groups that have come in that have had a lot more
details in their plans, but every group brings something to
the table," said Adams. "This group has a tremendous
balance sheet, but it's really premature to discuss because
they don't have a license."
MGM Grand Detroit's casino license will become available once
a deal to merge MGM and the Mandalay Bay Resorts is completed.
Mandalay Bay owns a majority of the MotorCity Casino, and under
federal antitrust laws, one company can't own two casinos in
MGM must agree to sell to the Venetian Group and settle an outstanding
lawsuit filed by the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior
Chippewa Indians against Detroit's casino bidding process, Adams
then they have to be approved by the city," he said. "Those
are three major hurdles, but they're not insurmountable."
Venetian Group is just one option being considered by the city,
said Adams. Several other gambling entities have approached
the city with proposals. And city officials have not totally
abandoned plans for a publicly funded expansion of Cobo.
so, he said, "A privately financed deal makes sense. The
less public dollars, the faster the deal can move forward."
assessment comes a year after Kilpatrick called for a new, 1-million-square-foot,
billion-dollar convention center run by a regional authority.
With dollar signs spinning in their heads, the rest of the political
leaders in the region almost immediately said it was too much
for taxpayers to bear, despite the need for an expansion of
the aging facility.
has repeatedly said expanding the 700,000-square-foot Cobo is
essential to keeping the auto show and attracting other convention
business to the city. McCormick Place in Chicago announced last
year that it will expand to 1.2 million square feet and has
implied that it could easily take over the North American International
was built in 1960 and last expanded in 1989. The auto show has
been calling for an expansion of the facility for several years.
Its primary source of funding is a tax levied on hotels and
motels in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.
Reese, spokesman for the Las Vegas Sands Corp., would neither
confirm nor deny the company's interest in developing a facility