CHICAGO-Construction is underway on the $800-million expansion of McCormick Place, already the largest convention center in North America. A groundbreaking ceremony was held this morning following 11 months of design work on the project, which will add 470,000 sf of exhibition space and another 250,000 sf of meeting space.

The addition is needed to keep smaller shows from going elsewhere and allow major shows to set up while another is going on, according to Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority officials. Six new McCormick Place customers have signed agreements to use the west expansion of the convention center along Lake Michigan. The addition is being built in an area bounded by King Drive, Indiana Avenue and the Stevenson Expressway.

“The official groundbreaking is an announcement to the community that construction is beginning,” says Bobby McGee of II in One Contractors Inc. “For the project it signifies a transition from the design phase. After this year, the design team will step back and kind of monitor the process, so the responsibilities will reverse.”

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