CIB, Visit Indy Present Case For Convention Center Expansion

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

The Senate Appropriations Committee heard testimony Thursday on a bill that would fund the expansion of the Indiana Convention Center and the addition of two new hotels in downtown Indianapolis. The city’s Capital Improvement Board unveiled plans for the $120 million effort in October. CIB President Melina Kennedy says the city’s biggest conventions have said an expanded convention center and more hotel space were significant factors in their decisions to stay in Indy.

"In addition to retaining some of the largest conventions that we have coming to our city that are bringing 60,000 or more people, it also would allow us the opportunity to be able to have more than one large convention at the same time, which currently we cannot do," said Kennedy. "We believe there are hundreds of potential major events that Indianapolis would now be open to for consideration that we wouldn't have been able to support previously prior to having that expanded convention center space."

Chris Gahl with Visit Indy says the city has lost out on $1.1 billion in business over the last 10 years because there wasn’t enough exhibit or hotel space. He says Indy's convention portfolio would only rise with the passage of Senate Bill 7.

"We're coming off record-setting tourism results," said Gahl. "We also are up against this idea that we're in jeopardy of losing some of our annual conventions if we don't put this expansion in place. There are many other annual conventions who need this expansion to stay in Indianapolis because they're literally outgrowing us."

The bill does not include any provisions for the proposed $550 million Eleven Park development, which includes a $150 million, 20,000-seat stadium for the Indy Eleven soccer team. WIBC/Network Indiana Statehouse Bureau Chief Eric Berman reports State Senator Jack Sandlin (R-Indianapolis), who has authored his own bill to help finance a new stadium, says he is open to amending Senate Bill 7 to include the stadium.

Kennedy didn't say whether she'd support including the soccer stadium in the bill, but says the CIB is very enthusiastic about the Eleven Park concept.

Berman says Senate Bill 7 also allow for improvements to Bankers Life Fieldhouse and extend the Indiana Pacers' lease at the downtown arena. The committee is set to vote on the bill next Thursday.

Kennedy says the city’s biggest conventions have said an expanded convention center and more hotel space were significant factors in their decisions to stay in Indy.
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