Cobo Center

Cobo Center to Lose Name Evoking Racist Past

The center expects to rebrand by the end of 2019.

When Cobo Hall opened in 1960, it was named for Mayor Albert E. Cobo. Since then, the facility has become a premier convention center, doubling in size to 2.4 million square feet in 1989 and adding a 40,000-square-foot ballroom in 2015. Cobo is known for large events like the North American International Auto Show, which draws around 800,000 people. But while the convention center has moved forward, its current name is not seen as an asset by Detroit's leaders. So, after a two-year effort led by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, the naming rights have been sold to Chemical Bank for $30 million.

Mayor Duggan told The Detroit Free Press, "[The regional authority] obviously have financial reasons to sell the naming rights but [ridding the building of the name Albert Cobo] was something that I thought was the right thing to do." Albert E. Cobo, who served as the city’s mayor from 1950 until he died in office in 1957 is remembered for his blatantly racist policies—he campaigned on a platform of “Negro removal” from white neighborhoods. At the name change announcement in February, Mayor Duggan said, “The Cobo era was marked by the wiping out of African American neighborhoods in the name of urban renewal. I don’t believe our civic center ... should be celebrating that era.” 

Pending final approvals for a merger between Chemical Bank and TCF Financial Corp, Cobo Center is expected to be renamed TCF Center by the end of 2019. 

The rebrand will also further remove the name from a scandal that happened at the Cobo Arena, once part of the center, in 1994. It was the site of a famous attack on figure skater Nancy Kerrigan by a skating rival’s husband.

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