Let the pilgrimage begin.
They will go to see the companies. They will go to see the products. They will go because their entire industry will be crammed into one location.
But before they go, they will have to know how to get there and get around.
As exciting as NPE 2003 is expected to be, the trip to Chicago's McCormick Place for the June 23-27 show can be just as exciting - or harrowing, depending on the point of view.
New this year will be a two-way road opened by Chicago's Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, which manages McCormick Place. The road will be used solely for express bus service between McCormick Place and city hotels. According to NPE, the service will cut travel time in half from the Drake Hotel, the farthest hotel on Michigan Avenue, to McCormick Place.
As with most other large cities in the summertime, the color orange is in full bloom. Although there is not much road construction in McCormick's area, it has struck South Lake Shore Drive, which is the home of NPE. A ``reconstruction'' of the road is ongoing, according to Illinois Department of Transportation spokesman Steve Kulm, but the highway will remain open. The construction is about halfway completed and the transportation department has been recommending alternative South Side thoroughfares such as King Drive, Cottage Grove Avenue, Lake Park Avenue, Stony Island Avenue, Cornell Drive, South Chicago Avenue, Pershing Road, 47th Street, Midway Plaisance and 67th Street. Regional bypass options are the Chicago Skyway (I-90) and the Dan Ryan Expressway (I-90/94).
Travelers will be happy to hear Kulm's report that there is no other major roadwork going on in the immediate area of McCormick Place, but motorists should be prepared to deal with the occasional side street that is undergoing a resurfacing project. Such roads will remain open, he said. For a list of construction reports, see www.illinoisroads.info or www.dot.state.il.us.
Taking advantage of the Chicago Transit Authority's buses or the Metra trains will help those who don't want to deal with the gridlock on Chicago's roadways.
Metra, the northeast Illinois rail system, has 228 stations in a six-county area. Stations at Randolph and Van Buren streets serve Metra's McCormick Place stop. The Randolph stop is at Michigan Avenue between South Water and Randolph, while Van Buren is between Jackson Boulevard and Van Buren Street. Trains run frequently during rush hour and every hour during off-peak times, according to its Web site at www.metrarail.com.
Also, the transit authority's No. 3 and No. 4 buses stop at McCormick, according to www.transit chicago.com and chicago.citysearch .com.
For those who choose to drive themselves, there are two main parking lots at McCormick. Lot A is a six-level garage and is the primary parking lot, while Lot C is an underground facility. Other spaces are available at the Hyatt Regency Hotel and at Soldier Field.
Traffic navigation will not end once visitors are inside the confines of McCormick Place, as more than 90,000 people are expected at this year's show.
Named for Col. Robert R. McCormick, former owner of the Chicago Tribune, McCormick Place opened its doors in 1960. In 1967, however, it was destroyed by fire and rebuilt in 1971. This NPE will be the 12th at the rebuilt facility.
Those traveling to NPE will need some assistance navigating the more than 2,000 booths housed at McCormick, touted as the world's largest exhibition and meeting facility. Navigation may be easier this year as there will be about two dozen product locators in McCormick Place.
Individual booth numbers can be found by using Plastics News' online exhibitor locator at www.plasticsnews.com or by visiting NPE's Web site at www.npe.org. An online show planner also is featured.
NPE's layout has changed somewhat since the show in 2000. The main registration area in McCormick South has been moved to Room S102. The other main registration point will be Level 2 of the East Building. Another registration area will be on Level 2 of the North Building.
There will be no NPE Restaurant in the Vista Ball Room this year. It has been moved to the lakeside area of the East Building. Also, McCormick has added more concession areas.
The business centers will be on Level 2 of the North Building, Level 2 of the East Building and Level 2.5 of the Grand Concourse. Shuttle bus/taxi pickup and drop off will be at Level 1 of the North Building, the Grand Concourse's Main Entrance International Center, and Level 2 of the East Building.
An area exclusively for shuttle buses also will be at Level 1 of the South Building.