Inside INdiana Business

Committee approves convention center expansion proposals

INDIANAPOLIS (Inside INdiana Business) — An Indianapolis City-County Council committee has approved three proposals related to the planned expansion of the Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis.

The plan, which was first announced in the fall of 2018, includes the construction of two new hotels.

The Metropolitan Economic Development Committee approved the proposals, which includes $155 million in bonds to finance the project. 

The bond financing would cover only the portions of the project that would be owned by the public. That includes the addition of a 50,000-square-foot ballroom at the convention center, to be built on the current site of the Pan Am Plaza. It also covers a pedestrian skybridge across Capitol Avenue connecting the new ballroom to the existing convention center. 

Specifically, the bond would cover $125 million in construction costs, with the remainder covering financing costs and capitalized interest. Plans call for the bond to be repaid with downtown Tax Increment Financing funds generated from the first hotel, as well as TIF funds that typically go to the city’s Capital Improvement Board.

The two hotels are being developed by Indianapolis-based Kite Realty Group Trust Inc. (NYSE: KRG). The first hotel will be a 42-level, 800-room Signia Hilton hotel. The second is a 23-level hotel that would add approximately 600 more rooms.

Under the plan, the Signia hotel would be built first and isn’t expected to open until at least 2024. Construction on the hotel wouldn’t begun until at least two years after the first hotel opens.

Councilor Ali Brown says the project is expected to create more than 3,000 unique construction jobs.

“Any opportunity to create a hefty amount of good, high-wage, union jobs in Indianapolis is an option the Indy Council will always take, and I’m elated about the possibilities the new Pan Am project could bring to our city and state economies,” said Brown. “More than 1.9 million collective work hours will be used to complete the construction of this project, guaranteeing yet another revenue stream for the City’s local and downtown businesses.”

The proposals now move to the full City-County Council for a vote, which is expected in early September. If approved by the full council, the city’s Metropolitan Development Commission will vote in October to authorize the bond.

The CIB says the announcement of the convention center expansion led to some of the city’s biggest conventions, including Gen Con, to decide to stay in Indy. During the committee meeting Monday, Visit Indy Chief Executive Officer Leonard Hoops said the project is crucial to the city’s convention business.

“We believe that this is absolutely a ‘do it or lose it’ in many cases because in some of the extensions with our bigger convention groups, they’ve actually incorporated into their future agreements the right to opt out of their agreements should this project not get done,” said Hoops.

In February of 2019, Visit Indy’s Chris Gahl said the city had lost out on $1.1 billion in business over the last 10 years because there wasn’t enough exhibit or hotel space.

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