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Cleveland Tank Plant ‘homecoming’ to feature historic military vehicles at I-X Center

• Dec 17, 2016 at 12:00 PM

CLEVELAND — The International Exposition (I-X) Center and the Military Vehicle Preservation Association (MVPA) announced the 42nd annual MVPA International Convention will be held in conjunction with the Cleveland Tank Plant Homecoming Military Show and Swap Meet from June 22 to 24, 2017 at the I-X Center.

“I’m excited to announce our annual MVPA International Convention will be held in Cleveland at the I-X Center,” said John Cheney II, MVPA event director. “Hosted by the Ohio Motorpool, a MVPA Affiliate group, the MVPA Convention will headline the Cleveland Tank Plant Homecoming Military Show and Swap Meet. We are thrilled to be back at the ‘Tank Plant’ allowing us to display examples of the many types of armored vehicles produced in Cleveland, in which our nation’s service men fought through several wars.”

The show will feature vehicles built at the former tank plant including the M41 Walker Bulldog Tank, M42 Duster, M56 Scorpion, M108 and M109 self-propelled howitzers, and M114 and M551 Sheridan armored vehicles. Also featured in show are military aircrafts, the Liberty Air Museum’s B-25J Mitchell, “Georgie’s Gal,” along with other member-owned aircraft. Known originally as the Cleveland Bomber Plant, and adjoining the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, the building’s large doors are still in place and operational, allowing the display of flying military vehicles on the floor with the show’s ground-bound vehicles.

Cheney has been leading discussions, planning and negotiations with the management of the I-X Center for the past three years. Combining an MVPA International Convention with a large public military show is not an easy task and can only be done in a few places across the nation.

”The I-X Center is a piece of American and Cleveland’s history,” said Bill Perrien, Senior Vice-President for the I-X Center. “This Cleveland Tank Plant Homecoming Military Show and Swap Meet will not only showcase the vehicles that were once built here, but also take show-goers back into the rich history of the I-X. We know this show will capture the interest of the community by attracting prior employees and families of the two plants. With feature displays of the vehicles manufactured here, the two-and-a-half day public side of the show is expected to draw thousands back to where it all started.”

Show hours will be 3 to 10 p.m. Thursday, June 22; 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, June 23; and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, June 24.

General admission tickets will cost $15. Children ages 12 and under will be admitted at no charge. Military discounted tickets (with a valid military ID) will cost $12 and be available at the box office only. Discount tickets will be available in the spring for $13. Information about online ticket sales will soon be available at www.IXClevelandTankShow.com. A $1 service fee per ticket will be added to advance orders if ordered online. Group tickets are available by contacting Cyndee Young at cyoung@ixcenter.com or by calling 216-265-2657. Tickets will go on sale in the spring.

The convention and show offer different levels of commercial opportunities. Information about purchasing swap meet tables and bulk linear spaces will soon be available at www.IXClevelandTankShow.com. The show will also offer incremental vendors spaces sold in 10-foot-by-10-foot blocks and a limited number of Official Sponsorship opportunities. For vendor or Official Sponsorship opportunities contact Steve Legerski at slegerski@ixcenter.com or 216-265-2514, or Bill Perrien at bperrien@ixcenter.com or 216-265-2505.

The I-X Center is the largest single building convention center in the United States, comprised of 2.2 million square feet, including more than 1 million square feet of flexible presentation space. For the last 30 years, our unique convention center has hosted more than 1,500 events attracting 50 million visitors. Below is the history of the I-X Center, along with a timeline.

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International Exposition Center: History

The I-X Center, an exhibition building located at 1 I-X Center Drive in Cleveland, was originally built in 1942 as the Cleveland Bomber Plant, but known through most of its history as the Cleveland Tank Plant.

Owned by the War Department during World War II, the facility was operated by General Motors as the Fisher Body Aircraft Plant No.2 and made B-29 bomber components. In its heyday, the plant employed 15,000 workers, many of whom lived in housing projects built on Triskett and Berea roads and rode to work in a CTS bus dubbed the “Bomber Bus.”

When the war ended and the plant closed, the City of Cleveland decided against leasing the facility for future airport expansion at a bargain rate of $1 a year for the fear it could not afford the maintenance costs. After a brief tenure as an exhibition hall and sales center, the plant was leased to National Terminals for soybean storage.

By 1950, as the Korean War expanded, GM’s Cadillac Division selected the Bomber Plant as the manufacturing site for army tanks. The Cadillac Tank Plant, as it was renamed, promised immediate employment to 6,000 building the M41 Walk Bulldog tank and M42 Duster armored antiaircraft gun. The Walker Bulldog was put into service in Korea by May 1953 and remained in production until 1955. The M42 saw widespread use during the Vietnam War.

After closing in 1959, the plant reopened in 1960, when Cadillac was awarded contracts to build the self-propelled T-195 and T-196 (later designated M108 and M109) Howitzers and M114 armed personal carriers. In 1965, GM shifted management of the tank plant (now usually called the Cleveland Tank Plant or the Cleveland Ordnance Plant) to its Allison Division.

Among the products of the Cleveland Tank Plant operation was the controversial M551 16-ton Sheridan Armored Reconnaissance/Airborne Assault Vehicle, billed as the most versatile and mobile tank ever built. Congress decided to discontinue the program when the GM contract was completed in 1972.

Subsequently, the Defense Department announced its intention to sell the plant. Brook Park, Cleveland and GM expressed interest, but dropped out of the bidding for various reasons. In 1977 the Park Corporation of Charleston, W.Va., bought the facility to create an international trade mart. That plan never fully materialized, but in 1985 Park opened the former tank plant as the International Exposition Center, billed as the largest single-building exhibition facility in the world with the main show floor covering 1,000,000 square feet.

Adding to this in 1993, Park Corp. opened 50,000 square feet of space in the facility’s basement/concourse to be used for midsized exhibitions. In 2008, an additional 185,000 square feet of main show floor was added, creating the New South Hall. In total there is 1,230,000 square feet of exhibit space at the I-X Center.

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International Exposition Center: Historical Timeline

March 1942

U.S. War Department authorizes construction of plant at this site for manufacture of B-29 bomber parts.

May 1942

Construction of 2.5 million square feet main building begins.

November 1942

On Thanksgiving Day the last of the 100,000 cubic yards of concrete is poured for the main building. General contractor Hunkin-Conkey receives the Army-Navy “E” for Excellence for the record completion time.

February 1943

B-29 bomber parts production begins.

April 1943

Plant is turned over to Fisher Cleveland Aircraft Division of General Motors Corporation, which is named the production manager.

July 1943

First B-29 wing assembly completed only 11 months after construction of the facility was authorized.

October 1943

U.S. Army issues new contract to GMC for building and testing experimental XP-75 fighter planes. Seven are built and tested during Fall and following Spring in an operation so secretive that personnel working in the plant never knew the plane’s flying speed, range or gasoline capacity.

1945 to 1950

XP-75 production ends. The Army uses the plant as a warehouse.

July 1950

The Army issues a contract to Cadillac Motor Division of GMC to design and manufacture light armor vehicles.

March 1951

First Walker Bulldog T41-E1 26-ton tanks rolls off the assembly line, three months ahead of schedule. The Cleveland Tank Plant is the first industrial unit in the nation to move into production of weapons for the Armed Forces during the Korean conflict.

1951 to 1952

Production contracts reach $1 Billion and employment reaches a high of 7,000.

July 1956

GM receives production contract for the M56 “Scorpion,” a mobile vehicle equipped with a 90-mm high velocity gun.

1960 – 1961

No production operations. Engineers work on production improvements.

August 1962

The first M114 command and reconnaissance vehicle comes out of final assembly.

1964 to 1965

Chrysler Defense produces the self-propelled MOG Howitzer.

June 1966

GM is awarded contract for production of the M551 General Sheridon. This is a unique new armored reconnaissance airborne assault vehicle.

1970

Armored vehicle production ends and plant remains dormant for seven years.

1977

Park Corporations purchases facility, renovates main building and grounds for use as a warehouse and eventual use as trade fair and exposition facility. Kostas Distribution Services, Inc. (KDS) formed to operate warehouse.

May 1985

Dedication of International Exposition Center and announcement of first trade fair, the 1985 International Capital Goods Trade Fair.

October 1985

The 1985 International Capital Goods Trade Fair holds its inaugural show, the largest trade fair ever held in the United States in the largest trade fair facility under one roof in the world.

1993

Park Corporation opened 50,000 square feet of space in the facility's basement to be used for midsized exhibitions.

2008

An additional 185,000 square feet of Class A exhibit space was added in what is now referred to as the South Hall.

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About the Military Vehicle Preservation Association (MVPA): Established in 1976, the non-profit MVPA is dedicated to providing an international organization for military vehicle enthusiasts, historians, preservationists and collectors interested in the acquisition, restoration, preservation, safe operation and public display of historic military transport. The MVPA has 6,000 members worldwide, including nearly 100 affiliate groups from around the world.

The Ohio Motorpool is a local MVPA affiliate organization opened to any and all interested in the collection, restoration and preservation of historic military vehicles and history of all years. The Ohio Motorpool has also participated in the Piston Powered Autorama in March for the past four years.

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