CHICAGO (CBS) — It’s being billed as the first major convention since the pandemic began.

The Chicago Auto Show will be back. A shot in the arm for car lovers and others hoping to restart the sluggish and hugely valuable convention industry in Chicago.

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CBS 2’s Chris Tye reported Tuesday from McCormick Place, where it wont be like any we’ve seen in a while.

If the Chicago Auto Show can pull it off, can the Inspired Home Show and others be far behind? It’s a test balloon, a job creator and what the calls a critical step in the state’s economic return.

The first Chicago Auto Show was held in 1901. And while it wasn’t always a certainty, it appears there will be one in 2021.

“Our goal, ladies and gentlemen, is to be fully opened by July 4.”

Eleven days after that Independence Day, which Mayor Lori Lightfoot hopes it will mean no more capacity limits in Chicago and it would be the first major convention at McCormick Place since pandemic began.

“We have sold tickets already.”

Those ticket holders will notice the event will run in a different gear and a time of year. It’s set for July 15-19th instead of the traditional February slot. Last February’s pre-pandemic show covered one million square feet.

This year: half a million.

 

Visitors will have timed entrance windows to arrive. And while medical questionnaires are required to be filled out, proof of vaccination will not be required. The entire show will take place in the west building, furthest from the lake.

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And the event will build out temporary outside space along Indiana Avenue for exhibits and party areas.

“Setting the stage for big events in the months to come,” said Governor JB Pritzker.

Other industries will be watching. Not just for safety, but to see if there’s adequate manpower to pull it off in an economy where workers are hard to find.

“I am very confident,” said Dave Sloan of the Chicago Automobile Trade Association. “No concerns about having the amount of labor we will need to pull this show together.”

“Sending the clear message to the nation and the world that Chicago is indeed back,” added Mayor Lightfoot.

A starkly different message than back 12 months ago. That’s when the city was finally disassembling 500 beds set up at in McCormick Place, which became an overflow site for COVID-19 patients that was never fully utilized.

The Chicago Auto Show will limit capacity to 10,000 patrons at a time.

Organizers estimate several thousand jobs created here and in the hotels and restaurants that will house and feed attendees.

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