Demand Fuels $120M Convention Expansion, Hotel Plans

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(Image provided by the Capital Improvement Board.) (Image provided by the Capital Improvement Board.)

A $120 million proposal to expand the Indiana Convention Center and build two hotels at Pan Am Plaza in downtown Indianapolis, the city's travel and tourism association says, will put Indy in play for a bigger share of the lucrative convention business. Visit Indy Chief Executive Officer Leonard Hoops says the plans, which include 1,400 new rooms in two Hilton-branded hotels -- one of which will rise 38 stories -- and 300,000 square feet of convention and ballroom space, will help retain some $300 million in annual convention business.

What's more, he says the city currently can't contend with some other destinations that offer more space. "The combination of what will be the city's largest ballroom and two additional hotel towers connected by skywalk," Hoops said, "will transform our ability to secure major new events that have never been held in Indy. It also gives us the capacity to host multiple citywide conventions at the same time." Visit Indy estimates that the city has been unable to bid on over 200 conventions since 2010 because it doesn't have enough hotel rooms or ballroom space available, potentially losing out on up to $1.1 billion in economic impact.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business Reporter Mary-Rachel Redman, Visit Indy Vice President Chris Gahl said the investment will put the tourism industry in a “picture-perfect” position for growth. "Currently, we can bid to host about 75 percent of the top 250 trade shows that are currently being hosted in the United States," he said. "With this expansion, that number will jump to 82 percent, so it really does unlock a whole new set of trade shows, conventions and meetings that we are now able to physically bid on hosting and so, therefore, we'll gain economically."

The public funding for the proposal, the city says, will come from a combination of property taxes from the new development and re-allocating some existing tax increment financing. The $120 million estimate involves infrastructure work at and around the site -- including the skybridge -- and does not include any potential subsidies for the hotel construction, the portion of the project expected to be built by the private sector.

Visit Indy estimates events at Capital Improvement Board-managed facilities like the convention center, Lucas Oil Stadium and Bankers Life Fieldhouse contributed some $1.1 billion to the local economy in 2017 and support about 19,000 local jobs. The project is expected to receive final state, city and other requisite approvals over the coming year.

You can connect to full details of the initial plans by clicking here.

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