Federal laws keep ads off marquee at Cobo Center

DETROIT – The Cobo Center marquee that hangs over Jefferson Avenue doesn’t play advertisements, and it’s causing millions in missed-out revenue.

Woodward Avenue is known by the federal government as a scenic byway and is 1,000 feet from Cobo Hall.

Federal law puts the distance a billboard can be visible from a scenic byway at 666 feet, but years ago Lansing decided a 3,000 feet limit was in order.

The board is clearly visible from Woodward Avenue and if advertisements are played, the state risks losing about $100 million in federal highways funding.

“We knew what the rules were when we were in the permitting process and we did an evaluation at that time,” said Cobo Center CEO Patrick Bero.

The new Cobo Center has a mandate, as a result of getting a nearly $300-million taxpayer-funded renovation, that it becomes self-sufficient and operates without taxpayer money by 2023.

“The important thing to know is that no other convention center in the county operates without a public subsidy, so the board wanted to use the video wall as a means to get there,” said Bero.

To help reach the goal of independence, the Cobo Center has begun selling advertising space on a billboard at the corner of W. Congress Street and Washington Boulevard. Advertisements play 25 percent of the time and have generated nearly a half-million dollars this year.

Bero would like to sell ad space on the larger marquee on Jefferson Avenue, but for now legislators in Lansing aren’t interested in changing the law.

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