Since its opening in 1972, the Indiana Convention Center, located in Downtown Indianapolis, has been renovated five times, according to Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsetts’ Chief of Staff Thomas Cook. The Indiana Convention Center, home to multiple different events, such as GenCon, POPCON and Indiana ComicCon, will undergo its sixth renovation in the near future. Not only will the Convention Center go through an expansion, but Downtown Indianapolis could experience improvements to Bankers Life Fieldhouse and Lucas Oil Stadium in the years to come. Cook said that the planning for this expansion has been underway since 2017.
“…Every time this [the renovations] have happened, there has been a significant amount of city planning that has gone into determining what that expansion should look like and whether it’s justified by returning an investment to Indiana taxpayers,” Cook said. “…So when we [the Hogsett Administration] got into office, some of that initial planning had already been underway.”
According to Cook, Visit Indy, an organization that is in charge of marketing the Convention Center as well as being the face of tourism for Indianapolis, conducted surveys with their customers in order to determine what they needed to do to improve. Cook said that after the surveys, the Office of the Mayor, working with the Capital Improvement Board, commissioned their own study to analyze the actual needs regarding the improvements and whether or not the local economy could support those needs.
“This has been a long planning process that has gotten us to this point…”
Cook said there were three different proposals regarding the Convention Center expansion. At the end of 2018, one proposal was accepted. It included the location of the old Pan Am Plaza to take over for the expansion and would consist of a 50,000 square-foot expansion of the Convention Center, roughly 30,000 square foot of upper meeting space and two hotels that would be built alongside the convention space, according to Cook.
“This has been a long planning process that has gotten us to this point,” Cook said. “From our perspective, what all of these studies have consistently shown is that by adding this ballroom space and hotel capacity, the city will not only be able to just retain these large conventions that currently bring in hundreds of millions of dollars into our local economy, but also we truly believe this will allow us to attract new business into the city of Indianapolis.”
Senator Ryan Mishler said that in regard to these expansions, there will also be improvements to Bankers Life Fieldhouse and within the next twenty years, repairs to Lucas Oil Stadium. According to Mishler, improving these places benefit not only Indianapolis, but the entire state of Indiana.
“Those entities [Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the Convention Center] add a lot of money into our economy…it’s not just Indianapolis to benefit, they put money into the entire state economy,” Mishler said. “…It will bring more people to the community. We can have larger conventions which brings more people in for more hotel space.”
Some of the long term improvements to Bankers Life Fieldhouse, according to Mishler, would open it up to be used more, rather than just for a ballgame or concert.
Cook said that he genuinely thinks that there are benefits to Downtown Indianapolis.
“From a pure data perspective, the fastest growing neighborhood in the city of Indianapolis is Downtown Indianapolis,” Cook said. “It’s because of the options that are available especially for younger residents…we think a project of this size is just going to add to that vibrancy downtown.”