With the successful run of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Tournament and the return of conventions such as last month’s Sweets & Snacks Expo and this weekend’s PopCon Indy, the city of Indianapolis is showing the beginnings of a return to form for tourism. Visit Indy Senior Vice President Chris Gahl says the city has staved off the pandemic in a healthier way than most major cities. “And we know that because we have other cities we compete with calling us, saying, ‘How are you able to host live events, in-person events, amateur basketball tournaments and volleyball tournaments, trade shows, conventions and meetings?'”
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business Reporter Mary-Rachel Redman, Gahl said the city has hosted 118 events since last July, each with a health plan.
“Four hundred thousand people have come through the walls of the convention center safely in a meaningful way,” said Gahl. “Indianapolis is winning in the tourism arena. We’ve figured out a way to work with city government, state government. We’ve found a way to stay healthier than other major cities. Now, we’re not immune from bumps and bruises and we’ve seen those from last summer all the way to present day.”
Gahl says Indy is setting the pace as more high-profile events such as Gen Con, the National FFA Convention & Expo and the 2022 College Football Playoff National Championship Game draw near.
One aspect of downtown Indy that has many concerned is the future of Circle Centre Mall, which has seen a number of store and restaurant closures in recent months. Gahl says “not a week goes by” that there isn’t “healthy discussion” about what’s best for the mall.
“Certainly, we’re not immune from urban malls and that question mark of what to do and how to repurpose the space and how visitors and residents alike are interacting with urban malls. That’s here in Indianapolis, that question mark and so it lingers,” he said. “We do have a vested interest because we have 12 hotels connecting into the convention center, but also into Circle Centre Mall. There’s a built-in audience of foot traffic by virtue of having these hotels connected.”
Gahl says Visit Indy is anxious to see what the city ends up planning for the mall, whether it includes residential space, more dining or other options.
Gahl spoke with Mary-Rachel Redman during a hard hat tour of the new $30 million Hotel Indy, which is still under construction and slated for an October opening. You can get a sneak peek of the hotel on this weekend’s edition of Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick.
Gahl says the city has hosted 118 events since last July, each with a health plan.
Gahl says the future of Circle Centre Mall remains a concern for downtown Indy.