CLEVELAND, Ohio – Closure of the International Exposition Center could cost city-owned Cleveland Hopkins International Airport more than $2 million dollars, the city reported Thursday.
Edward Rybka, the city’s chief of regional development, told reporters during a news conference that I-X Center Corp., the company leasing the I-X center, had been paying the airport $2 million a year in rent.
Rybka said the airport also will lose payroll taxes collected on the nearly 180 employees who worked at the I-X Center and will have to pay $800,000 a year in property taxes that had been covered by I-X Center Corp.
Mayor Frank Jackson called the news conference a day after I-X Center Corp., which managed events in the airport-owned exposition center, announced it was closing due to a collapse of business in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The company plans to wind down business over the next several weeks, Rybka said
The leasing was handled by the city’s Department of Port Control – which includes Hopkins, Burke Lakefront Airport and dock areas along the lake.
Losing the revenue “will be a financial burden that the airport needs to deal with,” Rybka said.
As an enterprise operation, taxpayer dollars are not used to support the airport. Hopkins produces revenue, but its operating agreement with the airlines calls for the carriers to pick up costs that Hopkins is unable to cover.
Prior to the pandemic, Cleveland had expanded the amount of revenue that Hopkins generates to more that 50% of its budget. But the airlines still kicked in about $90 million a year.
Jackson said he doesn’t know what happens next, whether a new vendor might be found, or the use of the building could be changed.
“We will however be looking at what is the highest and best use of the facility as we move forward,” Jackson said. “With the loss of that operation, we’re going to feel it – not only in terms of the revenues … but also with future activities, going forward.”
I-X Center Corp. has run the exposition for decades. Its current lease runs through 2024, and while the lease remains in place, Rybka acknowledged that if the company is shut down, Cleveland will have to consider other options.
“There’s probably a need for us to work to identify another future operator and tenant for that,” Rybka said.
More from Cleveland City Hall
Cleveland City Council sets hearing to get answers about Mayor Frank Jackson’s health department shakeup
Black community leaders demand Cleveland, Cuyahoga County and Ohio rescind development aid for Sherwin-Williams headquarters, research center
Cleveland finance director acknowledges city’s budget would be hit if commuters keep working from home permanently
Cleveland City Council panel signs off on city’s share of Irishtown Bend stabilization, road repairs and future park