Two years after crews started construction on the $25 million Terre Haute Convention Center, the city will Saturday celebrate with a grand opening event. Construction was essentially completed on the 43,000-square-foot facility in March. Officials from the city and the Vigo County Capital Improvement Board are optimistic the new venue will serve as a catalyst to draw new businesses downtown and visitors to the region.
“We thought that if we could do something like Bloomington or some of these other towns in Indiana that have brought back their downtowns with little stores, that people would come back downtown, “ said Vigo County Capital Improvement Board President Jon Marvel. “Since we have started on this project downtown, there have been a few small stores pop up. Once this thing gets off the ground, we’re just hoping that it will really start blooming.”
A business expo will be held on Saturday for 30 local businesses to show off their products and services.
The ballroom can hold 500-600 people in a dinner setting, but even more in a theater-style arrangement. The center has already booked a variety of events including weddings, exhibits, and conventions.
Last September, the Professional Fire Fighters Union of Indiana announced it would host its bi-annual convention at the venue in May 2023.
“These groups have booked them several years out. We knew that we would not be getting any conventions of the day that the building opened. But we do have a lot of things that’s already on the books,” said Marvel.
In addition to the convention center, the community will also see in the coming years a new casino. Churchill Downs Inc. was granted the gaming license.
Marvel says when CDI came out on top of the four applicants, there were concerns a ballroom at the casino would compete with the convention center and take away potential customers.
“They have been very generous with us and telling us that they did not want to compete with us, that they wanted to complement [the convention center], said Marvel.
While the convention center is open, one high profile element is still in progress – the Larry Bird Museum. Marvel says the pandemic slowed the project, which is being developed by Ohio-based Hilferty and Associates. Plus, details are still being negotiated with the NBA.
“There are so many things that we have to get in place before he can even display his rings or trophies with the NBA, getting the rights to display those things. So that’s slowing us,” Marvel said.
He’s hopeful it can still open later this year.
The grand opening is Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and is open to the public.
Editor’s Note: On this weekend’s edition of Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick, Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett will further discuss the convention center, the casino project, and other development helping with the city’s transformation.