Cobo considering selling rights to name to say afloat

- The Cobo Center board is considering selling the rights to the name of the convention center to get the company out of the red.

Each January, the automotive world knows the name Cobo Hall, but soon they may have to learn a new name. The people in charge of the convention center are wondering if it's worth their while to sell the naming rights to the convention center.

"There's been a lot of good will built up around the name Cobo Center. So it's going to be interesting to see how the market responds," said Patrick Bero, CEO and CFO of the Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority.

That's quite the turnaround in the past 10 years, when the city was dangerously close to losing the money-making behemoth known as the North American International Auto Show because the Cobo was in disrepair.

"One of the biggest customers the NAIAS said we can't operate this way anymore either make changes or we are going to leave," Bero said.

Cobo was formerly owned by the City of Detroit, which at the time was dealing with bankruptcy. The convention center was losing $21 million a year, so they created a regional authority and went to the state for help.

In the first two years they received $11 million, next two years $9 million, two years after that they got $8 million, this year they're getting $6 million and next year it will be $5 million. It will stay at $5 million until 2023.

Cobo is on the clock and made giant strides cutting the operating debt to $280,000, but with the state funding set to expire in six years.

"We have to get the facility to break even and it has to be sustainable long term," Bero said.

Right now all options are on the table, including shopping around for a name change - a common and lucrative practice for stadiums and arenas. But questions are still out there on whether it's worth it for a convention center.

The name Cobo won't change anytime soon. They just hired a marketing company this month and say the process could take between 6 months to 2 years.

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