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CLEVELAND (WJWJ) — The FOX 8 I-Team has found the untold story behind the collapse of the I-X Center, and we’re learning why the building could sit empty for a long time.

For decades, families in Northeast Ohio have built memories going to the I-X Center for trade shows such as boat shows and car shows along with indoor carnivals.

Now the I-Team has uncovered warning signs for months. Signs showing the I-X Center would not survive the COVID-19 outbreak.

The center has not been able to hold events for months due to the health crisis.

Records show the I-X Center is more than a million bucks behind in rent. The center hasn’t paid rent to the city since April.

And this comes to light as the people putting on shows already face deadlines for planning events next year. Consider the boat show, for instance.

“We had a preliminary conversation with the city  on what the possibilities are,” said Michelle Burke, President of the Cleveland Boat Show. “I truly feel as we get into November, we need to know.”

We asked Cleveland City Councilman Charles Slife how long might it be until we see somebody new in that building?

He responded: “I can’t give any definitive answer.”

The councilman says it’s complicated. While the I-X Center is closing, the company behind it still has years left on a lease. And, the building sits on airport property. That adds red tape.

“It’s ownership by the Airport, Hopkins, comes with a lot of strings,” Slife said. “Long story short is that the ability to quickly negotiate a new lease with another party is a tall order.”

The I-X Center did not comment for this story.

Some of you may wonder why those trade shows can’t just set up set up at the convention center built a few years ago downtown. They could. But show promoters say the downtown convention center is a lot smaller than the I-X center.

“We’re still hoping something can possibly be worked out at the I X Center,” Burke also said.

Show organizers and city leaders are looking for some way to get back in that building.

But, now that we see the money mess and the legal mess, there’s no telling how long it’ll take to straighten this out.

While other companies may want to move into that building for a variety of new kinds of businesses, nothing will happen anytime soon if things get bogged down in court.

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