June 5, 2009 at 1:00 am

Rock Financial Showplace

Novi eager to be backup plan

Novi -- State and local leaders say Detroit should be home to the 2011 North American International Auto Show, but if that's not in the cards they are confident in their backup plan: The Rock Financial Showplace in Novi.

Plans are under way to build an 800,000-square-foot addition to the center. Despite the big undertaking, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said there is "sufficient time" to complete the project to host the event if construction starts in about 60 to 90 days.

"I'm still of the mindset that the international auto show belongs to Detroit. Detroit put the world on wheels," Patterson said. But, "if Detroit can't get it done, then give us a shot at it. To have the international auto show in the county would be another feather in the cap of Oakland County's quality of life."

Tourism experts say the auto show would still garner international attention even if the event was held outside Detroit.

"Detroit, the city, is recognized internationally as the home of the auto show," said Renee Monforton, spokeswoman for the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau. "But now, the draw is the product, not the city. Our concern, as a bureau, is that it remains in the region. Novi is a great alternative."

Novi Mayor David Landry said the Showplace would be a great alternative for the event that draws about $500 million in business. "All of this can be done by the 2011 auto show. It would mean a great deal to Novi and the neighboring communities," Landry said. But, "if Detroit wants to keep the auto show, they can. The No. 1 thing we want to do is protect the state and all our interests here."

The GOP-dominated Senate passed a package of bills last week that offers the same deal on a Cobo expansion that the Detroit City Council previously rejected and could move the auto show to Novi if the plan is turned down again.

An Oakland County building authority would own the expanded facility and issue bonds.