Case Study: MPEA - Guiding McCormick Place Through the COVID-19 Pandemic

Updated: Nov 15



The Challenge: Our client Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA), owns and operates McCormick Place, North America’s largest convention center, the Marriott Marquis Chicago, the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place, and the Wintrust Arena. During Hawthorne’s time as the agency of record for MPEA we have faced a variety of challenges on campus, but the COVID-19 pandemic was an unprecedented crisis.


The Results: The global halt to meetings and events was an unprecedented situation, resulting in the cancellations of hundreds of meetings and events at McCormick Place. Hawthorne provided communication support in a number of areas including:

  • Customer communications - As the situation unfolded, we provided ongoing updates to our clients and supported the sales and event teams with information to answer questions. As the pandemic continued, we maintained regular contact providing updates on health and safety protocols as well as reopening plans.

  • Media relations - We handled hundreds of calls from media around the world about the impact of the pandemic and McCormick Place's response.

  • On-site support - McCormick Place was transformed into a temporary alternate care facility for COVID patients during the pandemic. We were on-the-ground to provide communications support, including five press conferences during a six-week period, including the Mayor, Governor, and Secretary of the Army.

  • Healthy Meetings Chicago - Hawthorne worked with MPEA and Choose Chicago to build and launch Healthy Meetings Chicago. This virtual experience was a first of its kind digital illustration of the steps taken to ensure the health of the employees and guests on campus.

Finally, in May 2021, after over a year of being completely closed, McCormick Place announced it would reopen in June 2021 with a robust schedule of events over the next 18 months that would have a regional estimated economic impact of $2.35 billion. We led the public reopening by gaining large-scale media coverage and communicating with employees, partners, and MPEA clients.


Earned Media:


NBC 5 Chicago: McCormick Place Sets Eyes On Summer Events, Multi-Billion Dollar Economic Impact


TSNN: Chicago Auto Show Drives the Reopening of North America’s Largest Convention Center


"After sitting closed for nearly 18 months, Chicago’s McCormick Place is once again hosting major trade shows and events, has welcomed back more than 1,000 full-time employees and is boasting a robust events schedule."