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Set up for the 2016 North American International Auto Show is officially underway, with hundreds of workers and semitrailers rolling into Cobo Center on Monday to begin building out the 623,000-square-foot main show floor.

Setting up the multimillion dollar stages, lighting and displays takes three months. Crews started preparing the space in mid-October. Event organizers say this year’s setup is particularly important, as about 75 percent of the show floor will be all-new or significantly redesigned for the more than 40 expected worldwide vehicle unveilings.

“Our theme this year is ‘All Roads Lead to Detroit’ and we’re looking at the great opportunity that the local auto manufacturers pick the North American International Auto Show as their venue of choice for worldwide unveilings and the technologies that they’re going to bring,” NAIAS 2016 Chairman Paul Sabatini told The Detroit News on Monday.

The 2016 Detroit auto show is open to the public from Jan. 16-Jan. 26. Thousands of news media from more than 60 countries and industry officials also attend the show prior to it opening to the masses.

New technologies, according to show organizers, are expected to be a main trend of the show, with automakers deciding to showcase cutting-edge advancements with their new vehicles.

“I think it’s going to be a big surprise, not only in the displays and what the hall itself looks like,” said Sam Slaughter, NAIAS 2016 vice chairman. “But what we’re seeing from manufacturers is a lot of technology will be introduced, and a lot of new and different things vehicle-wise will also make the show interesting.”

Sabatini added automakers are “pulling out all the stops this year,” including 40,000 square feet of double-decker displays and stunning new vehicles.

Besides the new vehicles and stages, the more than 800,000 show attendees and thousands of news media who annually attend the show should be pleasantly surprised by new developments around the show — from new restaurants to $279 million in completed upgrades to Cobo Center.

“We hear increasingly from the international press how excited they are that they can actually walk around downtown and go to different venues — not just to old standbys,” Slaughter said.

Upgrades to the more than 50-year-old Detroit convention center started in 2009. Show attendees have been able to see the enhancements over the past five years, including the Grand Ballroom and new atriums. And this year they will see the final product that includes digital exterior display screens and significant interior enhancements.

Cobo Center General Manager Thom Connors said visitors will particularly notice a massive exterior screen facing Jefferson, which on Monday had a countdown to the 2016 Detroit auto show.

“Construction is finished,” said Connors, who also serves as regional vice president of SMG, the management company that now handles day-to-day operations at the center. “This will be the first year in several years that there are no ongoing improvements.”

Connors said the renovations have not only improved the overall look of the building but the increased “flexibility in terms of booking,” helping surpass financial goals set when the Pennsylvania-based management group took control of operations in 2009.

“Cobo Center, while the four main halls will be extremely active with auto show move-in, we’ve got a lot of business going on around it,” he said, adding several events are occurring this week at the convention center. “Things are definitely going in the right direction.”

Overall, about 1,800 semitrailers will move the show in and out, and 1,500 union workers will work countless hours to install and dismantle the show floor.

mwayland@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2504

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