CLEVELAND - Cuyahoga County's new convention center will open two months ahead of schedule, in the summer of 2012, just in time for Cleveland to play host to the National Senior Games.
Officials say the convention center project is not only ahead of schedule, and due to open on July 1, 2013; but also coming in under budget, and the early opening could help the venue attract more business from convention planners.
"They want to know that they can have confidence that this facility will be up and running, so this is a great message to be sending out," says Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald.
The convention center will be mostly underground, with green space and walkways on top at the street level.
The walkways will be opened to the public in about two weeks and all the access points to Browns Stadium will be open in time for the team's first home preseason game, on Friday, August 24th.
The Medical Mart is scheduled open two months after the convention center, sometime near the end of August, 2013.
FitzGerald says earlier concerns that there wouldn't be enough permanent exhibitors inside are now being addressed.
"I'll be honest with you, at one point, that was a concern," he says, "but it's not as much of a concern as it was."
Any leftover money can be used to upgrade the facility.
While now celebrated, the project was considered controversial in the early planning stages, because of how it was funded - by a tax that, when passed, was politically unpopular in many quarters.
The project is financed by a quarter-cent sales tax put in place by the old County Commission.
The measure passed by a 2-1 majority vote.
One of the votes in support of the tax was cast by Jimmy Dimora, the now disgraced former Cuyahoga County Commissioner who is awaiting sentencing on corruption charges.
FitzGerald says that since construction started, the endeavor has appeared to go off without a hitch, and is now set to do two things rarely seen in public projects: come in both ahead of schedule and under budget.