The Munich trade fair company has become a major player in the exhibition business. But as its success increased, it expanded beyond the capacity of its limited exhibition grounds in the Theresienhöhe district of Munich. This growth gave rise to considerations about a new site—calls to relocate the exhibition grounds grew louder. The focal point of work in the 1980s and 1990s involved relocating the grounds to the former airport site in Munich-Riem. It was a matter of the company’s long-term growth and competitiveness.
At the beginning of the 1980s, Messe München set the company’s sights on its next strategy goal: the internationalization of the trade fair business. This new direction was reflected in particular by the acquisition of the trade fair company IMAG (Internationaler Messe- und Ausstellungsdienst) in 1980. The transaction led to the creation of a company group called Messe München International.
The final expansion work completed at the Theresienhöhe site involved the erection of three new halls and the south entrance in 1983. The old exhibition grounds had reached their limits. There was no where else to turn at the site located in the middle of Munich, where apartment construction and the limited opportunities to use the open Theresienwiese area, the home of the annual Oktoberfest, for parking and exhibition purposes hemmed in the company’s operation.
In July 1985, trade fair director Werner Marzin issued a historic position paper in which he called for the company to relocate to a new site: “In the end, the trade fair location of Munich can grow healthfully only if a new location is found.” Marzin already had a specific site in mind: “In consideration of all options, the most favorable solution seems to be using part of the location of the Munich-Riem airport that is being taken out of service.”
The idea of relocating the exhibition grounds began its journey through government agencies in the mid-1980s. Two important hurdles were cleared: The Bavarian Cabinet expressed its support for the location in Riem on September 23, 1986. Roughly one year later, on December 9, 1987, the Munich City Council approved the development of new exhibition grounds on the airport site in Riem.
The vision of the trade fair relocation began to take on concrete shape at the beginning of the 1990: A completely new city district was to be created in Munich Riem—with apartments, kindergartens, schools, green spaces and stores in the immediate neighborhood of the new Messe München site. No such project was being conducted anywhere else in Europe.
1991 Messe München and the Bavarian state capital of Munich initiated an urban-planning idea competition across Europe. The new Messe München site was to be located in the heart of a bustling residential area—the focus was placed on designing an entire city district. A total of 75 applications were submitted, and the winner was selected in July 1991: the Frankfurt architect Jürgen Frauenfeld.
The idea competition was followed by a realization competition in 1992: The contract to perform the specific planning of the New Messe München was issued to the architectural firm Bystrup, Bregenhoj & Partner of Denmark, a group whose light, modern architecture won over the jury. A planning organization was set up. The Bavarian state capital of Munich created the requirements for construction law.
The MOC Event and Order Center opened in northern Munich in 1993. Designed and developed by star architect Helmut Jahn, the building operated by Messe München set new standards: as an event center for highly specialized professional and popular general-public trade fairs like the audio exhibition HIGH END and the motorcycle exhibition IMOT or as an order center for sporting goods and shoe retailers.
The Riem Airport had been taken out of service. The preliminary work for the new home of Messe München could begin. Two million cubic meters of earth were moved. The big day finally arrived on September 9, 1994: The highest-ranking representative from each owner of Messe München GmbH took part in the groundbreaking for the New Messe München.
About 800 invited guests attended the laying of the cornerstone on June 19, 1995. Messe CEO Werner Marzin used the occasion to give a programmatic address and thanked the company’s owners “for this strategically and commercial decision whose impact will extend well into the next century and will strengthen the position of Munich and Bavaria as a trade fair and business location.”
Manfred Wutzlhofer became Chairman and CEO in 1996. His era was shaped by the relocation of Messe München to the new exhibition grounds in Riem and the methodical internationalization of the company’s business activities. Under Wutzlhofer’s leadership, Messe München systematically expanded its commitment to and its presence in China. The company continues to financially profit from this strategy today.
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