By Tara Molina

CHICAGO (CBS) — It’s back!

After more than a year, McCormick Place is alive with workers, setting up for the Chicago Auto Show which opens Thursday, July 15.

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CBS 2’s Tara Molina is live there for us now. Tara with hundreds of canceled conventions and events due to the pandemic, McCormick Place took a major hit.

They estimate there was an economic impact of $3 billion lost, but with a new kind of Chicago Auto Show about to kick off, both inside and outside, this marks a new day for the popular event.

McCormick Place is back, with the West Building filled with workers and equipment getting the space ready for the Chicago Auto Show’s kicking off Thursday.

The buzz and activity?

“It’s very special. It’s so exciting,” said Larita Clark, CEO of the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority.

This after the 230 forced cancellations at the convention center throughout the pandemic.

According to Cynthia McAfferty from Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, more than 200 events were cancelled, representing:

o    3,387,009 in estimated attendance
o    $3,056,827,772 in economic impact
o    $234,153,007 in state and local taxes
o    2,156,587 in hotel room nights

Cancelations representing millions lost in attendance, more than $3 billion in overall economic impact, more than $200 million in state and local tax revenue and more than $2 million on hotel room nights.

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“Our hotels in our city, our restaurants, even the taxis and ride shares. All of that was shutdown so all of that revenue was basically zero,” Clark said.

The CEO of the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority said they’ve been able to bring back 1,000 workers so far. And they’ll be able to bring back more and shows continue here.

And while the Auto Show will look different, this first big show back…

“We were the last one before the pandemic hit,” Dave Sloan, General Manager of the Chicago Auto Show.

Sloan said there are some exciting changes, too.

“It’s a smaller show indoors, but we have a lot of events going on outside,” Sloan said. “There are about nine different manufacturers doing test drives outside. (With) 50 different cars.”

Something that can’t be done in Chicago in February.

A stretch of Indiana Avenue will be blocked off at night for street fests the first four nights of the show, with cars on display.

“We’re leading in getting this facility back open and all of these people back to work,” Sloan said.

With Auto Show ticket sales only happening online this year, sales are up, but it’s tough to estimate exactly how attendance is going to look.

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Or what the impact will be.

Tara Molina