Hotel, Convention Center Expansion Sparking Debate

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A group of hoteliers is speaking out against a bill that would fund the two proposed hotels in downtown Indianapolis. The $120 million project would add about 1,400 rooms between two new Hilton-branded hotels in addition to an expansion of the Indiana Convention Center. Dave Sibley, regional vice president of Merrillville-based White Lodging Services Inc., says the group is concerned about the number of rooms that will be added into the market as well as the infrastructure that goes along with them.

In an interview on Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick, Sibley said the amount of new convention space doesn't justify the number of proposed hotel rooms. 

"We think there's way too many hotel rooms to begin with," said Sibley. "If you look from 2012 to 2018, there was 5.5 percent growth in the market. So we added 364 rooms downtown. We're now talking, in the next six years, of adding 2,741 rooms, or about the size of three J.W.s. We don't think that that's something that we can do in that short period of time."

Last month, Hilton (NYSE: HLT) announced that one of the new hotels would carry its new Signia Hilton brand. The brand is targeted toward meeting planners and others, and Visit Indy Vice President Chris Gahl tells Inside INdiana Business the expansion of hotel space and the convention center is about both keeping major conventions in Indy and bringing in new ones.

"Our research shows, and HVS has validated, that we will move from being able to bid to host 75 percent of the top 250 conventions in the nation to 82 percent of those being offered in the United States," said Gahl. "So it opens up our portfolio. We can open our stance and say, 'Hey, let's restart those discussions on those who did pass on hosting conventions in Indianapolis and those we didn't have room and space for previously."

Sibley said the hotels would like to meet with the city's Capital Improvement Board and Visit Indy to come up with a solution to solve everyone's problems.

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