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DETROIT-Expansion has won the recommendation of a local task force studying a larger convention center in the Detroit area. The Tourism Action Group, a task force put together by the mayor and the Detroit Convention Bureau, had been studying various options about what to do with the Cobo Convention Center, which its largest client, the annual auto show, has said is too small.

Walt Watkins, the chairman of the taskforce and the chief development officer for Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, says total costs of a new facility are just too great. A new facility is expected to cost more than $1 billion. Expansion could be done for between $400 million and $650 million, Watkins says.

The mayor had been pushing for a new facility to be built, but told reporters he will abide by the recommendation of the TAG. Cobo Center has more than 2 million sf of exhibit space, but only about 700,000 sf in its largest exhibit area. For several years, the center’s largest show, the North American International Auto Show, has seen its exhibitors build two- and three-story displays, allowing the automakers to use on the order of 1.1 million sf in that space.

For several years, the Detroit Area Auto Dealers have made known their desire to have a larger space for the show. Insiders say Los Angeles and Chicago have made overtures in the past trying to lure the premier North American auto show away from Detroit.

A formula for how the new convention center would be paid for has not yet been determined. Cobo has been expanded a few times over the years, the last time in 1989.

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