This year's largest convention in the state kicks off today in Indianapolis and Visit Indy is trying to secure it well into the future. The tourism and convention organization estimates GenCon will have a $67 million economic impact this year. Visit Indy is trying to work out an extended commitment to keep the event in the city beyond its current contract, which runs through 2020. Vice President Chris Gahl estimates more than 60,000 attendees from 50 states and 40 countries will take over the Indiana Convention Center, hotels and local businesses this weekend.
Gahl says hotels connected to the event sold out in a record 20 minutes this year.
During an interview last week on Inside INdiana Business Television, Visit Indy President Leonard Hoops said GenCon is now seeking possible bids to hold the event in another city, something that hasn't happened since 2002. He said the previous three renewals have been "easy negotiations." He adds talks have been more challenging this time around. Both Hoops and Gahl are optimistic GenCon will stay in Indy.
Leaders of the gaming industry convention say consideration of other venues is connected to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that was signed into law earlier this year. GenCon became one of the most immediate critics of the legislation and Hoops said RFRA caused the city to lose some convention dollars. Hoops said it hasn't "devastated" the business, pointing out the organization has already surpassed its full-year goals. GenCon's public allusions to potentially taking the event elsewhere were dialed down some after legislators approved a "fix" that clarified some language in RFRA. Opponents argued the measure would've opened the door to discrimination, particularly for members of the LGBT community.