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CLEVELAND (WJW) — The Huntington Convention Center in downtown Cleveland has been closed for thirteen months due to COVID-19, but the major event venue is open once again — with some upgrades. 

“We were all set that day to host a Bernie Sanders rally down on the show floor when everything came to a stop,” said the center’s Director of Public Relations and Marketing, Dave Johnson. “The county was able to apply for and then allocate over 2 million dollars in CARES Act funding that we were able to utilize to upgrade safety enhancements in the building.”

The upgrades include temperature checks, COVID safety signage, and an upgraded air filtration system. Indoor event capacity in Ohio also remains at 25 percent.

“Everything from antimicrobial installations on high touch surfaces, elevators, escalators, no-touch doors,” said Johnson.

Safety is a collaborative plan between the Huntington Center and clients who have events here.

Kicking off the reopening weekend: the Today’s Bride Show that used to run at the IX Center before it closed.

“Our average show is 250 exhibitors at the IX Center in January. This is 112 exhibitors currently so it’s approximately half and that helps keep our attendance numbers down to the 25 percent rule for both attendees and staff being here in this particular venue of this size,” said Show Manager Jennifer Fyffe.

This big event allowed couples to plan for their big event with a more personal touch.

“I wanted to come for the experience. You can’t get the physical experience of like being with her and looking at the different places, online,” said Aniya Saleem.

“I feel comfortable being around so many people because there’s so much space that I’m not shoulder to shoulder — because I’m still not comfortable being that close to so many people,” said Deanna Fyffe.

Jennifer Fyffe says the industry was decimated the past year but is working to rebuild. 

Everyone is optimistic the next year and a half is going to be really booming for all these businesses and they’re gonna need to rehire and build again so that’s really good for the economy here in Cleveland,” she said.

Between the NFL Draft and events like these, the city seems to be coming back too. 

“It’s a sense of enthusiasm and excitement to see downtown Cleveland buzzing today,” said Johnson.

He says 2022 looks to be a record-breaking year for business between what was scheduled before the pandemic, events that have been postponed, and the number of consumer-based events they now are hosting since the IX Center closed.