Design that Inspires: 900k Square Feet of Fantasy

Since 2010, the McCormick Place South Hall in Chicago has hosted many thousands of pop culture enthusiasts and cosplayers for the annual Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2) every April. Cosplay – short for “costume play” – involves fans dressing up as their favorite characters for competitions, photos and just for fun. And, as you can see from the Instagram photos below, this isn’t like your office Halloween party where someone throws on a hat and claims to be a cowboy. These super fans go all out, constructing intricate costumes and applying near movie-quality makeup for the occasion.


For its part, McCormick Place does what it was designed to do: efficiently move thousands of Expo goers through exhibits, event spaces, photo ops (and with enough space for those with a 6ft wing span) with flexibility to grow the C2E2 fan base each year. For more on how design influences large-scale events, we went straight to the C2E2 source: Event Manager Mike Negin.

tvsdesign: As an event manager, what do you look for first when choosing a venue?
Mike Negin, C2E2 Event Manager: We’re looking for buildings that are easy and intuitive to navigate. It’s always ideal that there are a number of hotel properties nearby to satisfy all different types of fans. Easy access to parking and mass transportation are also incredibly important.

TVS: What are some of the challenges of planning an event at this scale? 
MN: When you reach a certain size, it’s really about providing a comfortable and safe experience for your fans. The breathing room that McCormick provides us is a real benefit to our fans.

TVS: You’ve hosted the event there since its inception. How did you choose McCormick Place and what keeps you coming back? 
MN: McCormick is one of, if not the largest convention centers in the country which means that we can keep growing C2E2, whereas many of our other events are venue bound. The building staff and all of the vendors we work with are top notch. There are several comic book conventions in the area, but none in Chicago proper. When we first launched C2E2, we made a big deal of the fact that the show is in the city and not in the suburbs. I think that made a big difference in allowing us to attract a certain kind of exhibitor and make this stand out as an event with a national prominence.

TVS: Was there anything about the design of McCormick Place that made it a better choice than other convention centers? Does it help efficiently move people from place to place? 
MN: The access to not only the Metra but the newly re-opened Green Line stop has made it easy for our fans to get to, which is super important for an event of this size.

TVS: Do you use the adjoining Hyatt Regency hotel space? How? 
MN: We generally put all our staff and special guests in the adjoining hotel, which makes the after-hours activities so lively. We call it ‘Bar Con’ – so much of the time, the good times that you have after the show has closed can really make your overall show experience that much better.

TVS: Is it sufficiently self-contained or do you find people are going out to explore the city as well? 
MN: Our hotel block spreads into the city and many of our fans that are driving in from out of state use C2E2 as an excuse for a weekend vacation in Chicago. It’s nice to be walking the Magnificent Mile after the show has ended for the day and seeing fans dressed in cosplay continuing their evenings.

Ready to see more of C2E2? Scroll through the Instagram gallery below.

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