Indy Ups the Game with Convention Expansion

Skift Take

What does a city do when some of its largest annual conventions outgrow it? Expand. That is exactly what Indianapolis is doing.

The Indianapolis Convention Center is adding 143,500 square feet of space. Planners will welcome a 50,000-square-foot convention center ballroom that will be the state’s largest. A new, 40-story, 800-room Signia by Hilton hotel will open its doors in the summer of 2026.

The Pan Am Plaza, created for the 1987 Pan American Games, will become the site of the new hotel. The area regularly supports large events including MPI’s WEC 2018, when 21 food trucks supported an interactive luncheon.

Additional Space Needed

The city has proven popular, yet many conventions are just too large for the city. Almost ten years ago, Visit Indy, Indianapolis’ official destination marketing organization, acknowledge the challenge. It set out to build a case for expansion to capture the revenue city was losing out on.

Services of consulting company HVS created a feasibility study looking at expanding the city’s convention capacity. “The study revealed that not only could the city support a new 800-room hotel, but that it [the Indiana Convention Center] needed an additional 50,000-square-foot ballroom with additional meeting space to allow the city to retain, attract, and layer group business,” said Chris Gahl, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, Visit Indy. 

Securing Financing

The council approved the financing of the Indiana Convention Center expansion portion in September 2020. A vote of 25-0 supported investing $155 million in bonds backed by revenue from the downtown tax increment finance district.

The Capital Improvement Board (CIB), the agency that owns and manages the Indiana Convention Center, selected Kite Realty Group Trust to develop both projects. However, in early 2023, Kite claimed it could not make the financing work with interest rate hikes, inflation, and increased labor/construction costs. The City of Indianapolis has since taken over the financing and ownership of the hotel. Kite remains responsible for overseeing the construction of both projects.

To finance the hotel portion, the city received approval from the council with a vote of 20-5 to take out $510 million in tax-exempt hotel revenue bonds. Revenue generated from the hotel will pay this back.

Photo credit: Kite Realty / Visit Indy