Hoops: 'All Things Considered, We Feel Good'

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Buoyed by high-profile deals and positive June bookings, the chief executive officer of Visit Indy expects the group to hit projections for 2015, but cautions fallout from the RFRA controversy remains a concern. "It has been a couple of good couple of weeks," said Leonard Hoops during an interview on Inside Indiana Business Television. But he quickly added, "I wouldn't necessarily say it's been a couple of good months." Hoops says at the end of June, Visit Indy was at 101 percent of this year's target, but contends it could have been 110 percent or greater if not for "other issues."

In the spring, passage of the so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act by the Indiana General Assembly set off a firestorm of protests and prompted several conventions to cancel contracts or threaten to pull out of commitments for events in Indianapolis and around the state. Lawmakers quickly passed a so-called fix, but concerns about the fallout remained. 

Two recent, high profile convention announcements in Indianapolis have some wondering if the worst of the RFRA impact has passed for the state's convention sector. 

Last week, city officials confirmed Indianapolis will play host to the 2016 U.S. Conference of Mayors' Annual Meeting. Hoops says about 80 conventions or meetings will have greater impact the expected $1 million boost the event is expected to provide, but few will have more significant media exposure. "It's a real coup to get this event during a presidential year and the event will be held just a couple of weeks before the Republican and Democrat National Conventions," notes Hoops.

Earlier this month, the National FFA Organization announced a nine-year extension of its annual convention in Circle City, an event that attracts more than 60,000 attendees and has an economic impact pegged at more than $36 million annually.
Hoops emphasizes the RFRA issues remains a fluid situation. "When people ask me, have you lost bids because of RFRA, the answer is yes... we lost one yesterday that was RFRA-related," said Hoops. "Has it devastated the convention business? It hasn't."

Regarding future expansion of convention facilities, Hoops says it continues to be studied closely as part of a larger strategic plan.

"We've by far beat projections from the various consultants regarding our 2011 expansion," notes Hoops. "It wouldn't surprise me if we (decide to) expand again, given our history of success, but you've got to do it in a very thoughtful and deliberate way."

"We could build too big and not get our return on investment, you could build too little or do nothing at all and leave some opportunity costs out there, so we're going to take a close look at that."

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