Detroit’s former Cobo Center is now TCF Center

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan helps to announce the TCF Center | Ken Coleman

The former Cobo Convention Center in Detroit has a new name: TCF Center.

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans and Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter attended the TCF Center announcement | Ken Coleman

The Tuesday downtown news conference included Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing), Wayne County Executive Warren Evans and Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter.

“This naming rights agreement has been a goal of the DRCFA since it was formed in 2009 and TCF Bank is the perfect partner,” said Larry Alexander, chair of the Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority and president and CEO of the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Our partnership with TCF Bank will help to cement the convention center’s strong financial future.”

TCF National Bank and the Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority announced a 22-year naming rights partnership in February, as the Advance reported. 

Detroit turns page on Cobo, bank to rename convention center

 

Over the last several years, there was mounting public sentiment to eliminate the Cobo name from the 59-year-old center. It had been named in honor of Albert E. Cobo, who served as mayor of Detroit from 1950 to 1957. 

Cobo has been remembered by some for his hostile relationship with the city’s African American community and razing a historic Black neighborhood in the name of urban renewal.

Many Detroiters expressed hope that the center’s name would honor one of the city’s many African American icons, including Rosa Parks, Joe Louis and Aretha Franklin. However, the conventional wisdom was always that the center would be given a corporate name.

Cobo Center new name game: Detroiters suggest Louis, Parks, Franklin

“We couldn’t be prouder or more honored to partner with the authority on this unique opportunity to support our hometown and state. It helps ensure a continued strong, vibrant future for the world-class Detroit convention center that connects our city to the world,” said Gary Torgow, TCF executive chair. “It’s an important part of our larger, intentional effort to marry inclusion with investment across the city and its neighborhoods, region and state. We look forward to reaching new heights.”

Whitmer at the Lansing Brewing Co.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer talks to reporters at the Lansing Brewing Co. | Nick Manes

Whitmer echoed his sentiments.

“This is exciting news for the city of Detroit and the whole state of Michigan,” the Democratic governor said. “The new name demonstrates TCF’s strong commitment to the future of our state, and their investment sends a powerful message to the whole country that Michigan is the home for opportunity.”

Duggan had first suggested two years ago that the Cobo name be replaced. 

“I can’t think of better partners than Gary Torgow and the team at TCF Bank to help secure the future of our region’s convention center,” he said.

The lending institution, then known as Chemical Bank, announced last year that its corporate headquarters in Midland would move into a 20-story building in downtown Detroit. 

TCF Center announcement | Ken Coleman

TCF Center is the 17th largest convention center in the country. It hosts the annual North American International Auto Show, as well as the annual NAACP Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner, a fundraising event that routinely attracts 10,000 people each spring.

“What’s in a name? Quite frankly, everything,” said the Rev. Wendell Anthony, Detroit NAACP president. “The name Cobo was not one that brought a level of respect for all Detroiters. It reminds us of an era we seek to keep in the past, never to be resurrected.”

Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman reports on Southeast Michigan, education, civil rights and voting rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.

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