LAS VEGAS (AP) — A new expo center has opened in downtown Las Vegas, marking a first step toward recovery after conventions and trade shows came to a halt last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A new $103.5-million Expo at World Market Center opened Friday ahead of five days of market show dates this week at the sprawling facility near the Spaghetti Bowl interchange on Interstate 15.

The twice-a-year trade show draws thousands of home and gift industry professionals to Las Vegas to see new designs in furniture, bedding, lighting, flooring and home decor.

The three-year project is an investment by Blackstone, International Market Center parent company.

At 315,000 square feet (29,264 square meters), the Expo was designed as a gateway between the temporary market exhibits and permanent showrooms on the 5-million-square-foot (0.46-million-square-meter) World Market Center Las Vegas campus.

Company CEO Bob Maricich noted the trade show is the first in Las Vegas since conferences and conventions were shuttered in March 2020 to stem the spread of the coronavirus.