Cuyahoga County's new convention center is now expected to open early
In the News :: July 13, 2012
From the CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER (July 13, 2012) -- Cuyahoga County's new convention center is now expected to open July 1, 2013, two months ahead of schedule, county Executive Ed FitzGerald will announce today.
The early opening would allow the exhibit hall with its meeting space and ballrooms beneath the downtown malls to welcome the National Senior Games next summer, and help establish the venue's reputation among the nation's event planners.
"It's a perfect opening for the entire project," FitzGerald said during an interview Thursday. "The amount of positive publicity is enormous. It's worth millions and millions of dollars."
Construction began in January 2011 on the $465 million, taxpayer-financed project, which includes a medical mart to showcase medical technology on the northeast corner of St. Clair Avenue and Ontario Street, and the connected convention center underground.
The medical mart is scheduled to open Aug. 31, 2013. County officials and their developers, Chicago-based MMPI, credit the expedited work on the convention center to a lack of unforeseen issues, a commitment by all parties to avoid delays, and government scrutiny.
The change won't cost the county anything extra, said Jeff Appelbaum, the county's pointman for the project. MMPI will simply make an early transition from developer to manager of the facility.
MMPI Senior Vice President Jim Bennett said in a statement he was happy to be able to accommodate the senior games. The company has contracts for 19 other conventions, the statement said.
The senior games, which will be held July 21 through Aug. 1 next year, are expected to bring 35,000 visitors to town for competitions such as race walking, cycling and shuffleboard.
Organizers had expected Public Square to serve as a base, but now plan to use the convention center.
Michael Burns, senior vice president of convention sales and service at Positively Cleveland, the region's tourism bureau, called the early opening of the convention center "awesome news." He said the sooner the complex opens, the sooner event planners can hear positive testimonials and agree to book their own events there.
"The further along it is, the more confident they are," he said. "You see the energy going on downtown."
Joe Roman, CEO of the Greater Cleveland Partnership, the city's chamber of commerce, said the senior games should boost confidence in the facility.
"It's just reinforcing the message of the momentum in Cleveland and gets the kind of attention that attracts investment over time," Roman said. "It's more signals to the private sector that things are working well in Cleveland."
FitzGerald said he expects the entire project to be completed on time and within cost estimates.
"It's really a stark contrast to other large public projects," he said. "We hope it's a sign of things to come."
The county's most recent project, the $189 million Juvenile Justice Center, opened in October 2011, seven months later than anticipated, because of miscalculations in computer contracts. And costs continue to mount. Just last week, County Council approved a contract for up to $33,000 to correct issues with the security system for the center's detention area.