McCormick Place warns bondholders about impact from coronavirus

The World Congress of Cardiology, scheduled for March 28-30, becomes fourth event to withdraw from convention complex.

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McCormick Place Lakeside Center (right) and South Building (foreground).

The American College of Cardiology has canceled a world gathering planned for March 28-30 at McCormick Place.

AP file

With four major shows now having canceled their Chicago conventions, the agency that owns McCormick Place is warning investors about the financial fallout from the coronavirus.

The Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, known as McPier, included the warning late last week in an updated final offering statement for an$881 million bond refinancing approved in December and scheduled to close next week.

Restaurant, hotel, sales and other tourism taxes have always been sensitive to economic downturns. But, the amended offering statement adds the fall-out from a “pandemic or health epidemic” as factors that could drive down McPier revenues. It also mentions the first three cancellations.

The fourth, the American College of Cardiology, was canceled Monday. Its World Congress of Cardiology, scheduled for March 28-30 at McCormick Place, was expected to draw 29,000-plus attendees and account for more than 40,000 room nights at Chicago hotels, said a McCormick Place spokeswoman.

The first convention cancellation came from the International Housewares Association, which decided not to hold its four-day Inspired Home Show at McCormick Place. The show had been expected to draw 56,000 patrons.

Next came Modern Business Experience, a much smaller event for 5,000 patrons sponsored by Oracle that was due in Chicago March 24-26.

That was followed by a national meeting called by Ace Hardware, with an expected attendance of 1,800 at the Marriott Marquis Chicago and the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place.

“The cancellation of such foregoing-described events will likely adversely affect the commercial activity and taxable transactions expected to be realized in connection with these events, though the authority makes no prediction as to the degree of the effect,” the updated offering statement from McPier said.

“If the COVID-19 persists as a public health emergency or if other health epidemic conditions arise and persist, additional events at McCormick Place or other venues owned or operated by the authority may be cancelled and related commercial activity and taxable transactions reduced. Such additional cancellations could also occur as a result of event and travel restrictions imposed by federal or local government authorities, voluntary decisions to withdraw by event sponsors and planners and voluntary decisions to forego travel by expected event attendees.”

The statement notes that the remainder of events scheduled for the balance of 2020” at McCormick Place or other McPier-owned venues have not been cancelled due to concerns about COVID-19.

But, it also states, “The authority gives no assurance that there will not be future cancellations. Nor is it possible for the authority to predict whether or to what extent COVID-19 or any other pandemic, epidemic or other health-related conditions will affect the authority’s operations, commercial activity, taxable transactions or other revenues.”

Four days after the revised statement was issued, the cardiologists announced their cancellation.

Visitors from 108 countries had been expected, with 260 exhibitors signed up.

It is the first time in 69 years the group’s Annual Scientific Session will not be held live and in person, the organization said in a statement.

“Our decision to cancel our flagship annual event was not taken lightly,” the college said in a statement posted online that cited “the increasing number of travel advisories and restrictions being placed on health care providers and hospitals and institutions in the U.S. and globally.”

It continued: “The health, safety and well-being of our members, staff, exhibitors, faculty, and the patients we serve is of paramount importance. With an ever-increasing number of ACC members on the front lines of preparing and reacting to the COVID-19 outbreak, we believe it is in the best interest of everyone to cancel the meeting and ensure our members are able to do what they do best – help and heal.”

With the cancellation, McCormick Place now has lost four major shows due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The cardiology’s statement added that “ACC leadership and staff are hard at work to not only provide COVID-19 guidance and preparedness tips to the entire cardiovascular care team, we are also developing ways to recognize our award winners and deliver the important science and education from ACC.20/WCC directly to you.”

This is a developing story. Check chicago.suntimes.com for updates.

Contributing: David Roeder

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