Microsoft cancels Ignite conference for Chicago in 2016 – Chicago Tribune

In a major blow to Chicago’s technology community and tourism industry, Microsoft has canceled its Ignite conference for 2016, sources said Tuesday.

The loss of the conference, which was scheduled for May 9-13 at McCormick Place, will affect more than 50 hotels and cost the city about 90,000 room nights, sources said.

Microsoft Ignite made its debut at McCormick Place in May, with a weeklong event showcasing its products to information technology professionals. The inaugural conference drew more than 20,000 attendees, officials said. The return engagement was on the books for 2016, but sources said Microsoft wanted to reschedule for later in the year, when McCormick Place was unavailable.

Reached by email late Tuesday, a Microsoft spokesman declined to comment.

Chicago’s tourism industry was already facing a challenging 2016, with 200,000 fewer convention room nights on the books than last year, according to Choose Chicago, the city’s official tourism arm. With the loss of Microsoft Ignite, the deficit will be closer to 300,000 fewer room nights.

Choose Chicago is under financial pressure, with $7.2 million of its funding frozen by the state’s ongoing budget stalemate. Last week, the agency announced it was laying off one-fourth of its workforce and closing two international offices, with more potential downsizing ahead, officials said.

rchannick@tribpub.com

Twitter @RobertChannick

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