INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — As Gen Con kicks off in Indianapolis, tens of thousands of fans are flocking to the Circle City.
Gen Con is one of the largest events the city has held since the beginning of the pandemic. This year, the convention is expected to bring 30 to 40 thousand people to the city, many of whom are out-of-state visitors.
“I am from southeast Iowa.” said Josh Elinghaus at Gen Con.
“Grand Rapids, Michigan.” said Alex Green.
“Amery, Wisconsin,” said Cameron Fina.
This means that between convention events, they will be residing in hotels across downtown Indianapolis.
“We are actually very close to capacity. We are going to be sold out. We expect pretty much the whole downtown to be close to sold out this weekend. And any time that happens, it is fantastic,” said Phil Ray, General Manager at the J.W. Marriott.
The convention, which normally has around 70 thousand attendees, is downsized this year. However, it is still showing a significant impact in the pocket book of Indianapolis.
“They will generate a very healthy $37 million in economic impact which is really, really, really important for our frontline hospitality men and women who depend on tourism for a paycheck,” said Chris Gahl with Visit Indy.
Experts in the hospitality industry say that when Indianapolis successfully pulled off the March Madness tournament, it gave other organizations like Gen Con confidence that the city can hold large events safely amidst the current public health situation.
“The proof of concept that Indianapolis can host events during the pandemic started last year when more than 7 million dollars in health and safety upgrades were put inside the Indiana Convention Center,” said Gahl.
Now, after the cancellation of last year’s event, Gen Con fans can finally continue traditions.
“I have been coming to Gen Con since probably 2011 with a big crew. We come every year and we start planning in January because you have to in order to get a room on the block,” said Ellinghaus. “We love it. It is one of the highlights of the year.”
“It does feel smaller, but it still definitely a fun event that I would be very sad to miss,” said Fina.
Additionally, the hospitality industry is able to get back on their feet — they’re bringing back staff full time and keeping them busy.
“Especially the last two or three months, it has really started to transition and be busy all week long versus just weekends,” said Ray.
Gen Con continues throughout the weekend with the final events wrapping up on Sunday.