SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (NEXSTAR) — Across the state, convention centers which closed their doors to the public due to the pandemic are converting their purpose and reopening their doors to serve as mass vaccination sites.
After a year of the statewide shutdown and more Illinois residents receiving the COVID-19 vaccination, venues which were put to a halt on hosting public events, are now finding ways to help the state’s economy. One of those venues is the I Hotel and Convention Center in Champaign. The venue has partnered with Champaign-Urbana Public Health District to serve as a vaccination site which delivers to the public anywhere between three to two days within a week. The I Hotel and Convention Center’s general manager, Sam Santhanam, says they were able to turn a hardship into an opportunity to help those within their community. He says his staff is eager to get back to work.
“When the governor says we’re able to open, we are ready to open,” Santhanam says. “We fully have the space, we have the staff, and people are trained very well.”
The city’s convention center was recently expanded to an additional 38,000 square foot facility last October. According to Santhanam, CUPHD vaccinates nearly 1,200 people every day in the space provided, with a reported 18,000 vaccinations since mid-January.
Jayne DeLuce, Chair of the Illinois Council of Convention and Visitor Bureaus, said she is glad to see the facilities serve, and while the industry has been so decimated during the time of the pandemic, they are here first and foremost for their residents.
“We hope that it’s a short term solution to help out our communities,” DeLuce said.