City Spotlight: Indianapolis
With a little time and a little luck (as in NFL draft pick Andrew Luck), Indiana’s capital will soon recover from the loss of Indianapolis Colts’ star Peyton Manning. In the meantime, Indianapolis’ high-profile hosting of the 2012 Super Bowl should provide considerable consolation for the country’s 12th–largest metro area. In the run-up to that celebration, millions of viewers, more than a few faith-based planners among them, witnessed firsthand the results of Indianapolis’ recent $3 billion revitalization and transformation into a first-tier destination and major player in the meetings market.
1. BIG CHANGES
A good starting point, especially for religious groups, is the city’s reinvigorated downtown core and the sparkling new look and feel of the Indiana Convention Center. Past attendees might be forgiven for not recognizing the latter, thanks to a $275 million expansion and renovation project completed a little more than a year ago. The ICC’s reconfiguration delivers 566,300 square feet of contiguous exhibit space and 83 meeting rooms, including the new Sagamore Ballroom, which, at 33,000 square feet, is the Midwest’s largest.
2. HOUSING BOOM
Planners will be pleased by the ongoing expansion of Indy’s accommodation stock. Citywide, the guest room total has risen to around 32,000, while downtown counts some 7,100 in its tally. The biggest difference in terms of convenience and practical room blocks is with the almost 4,700 rooms now attached to the convention center via a series of skywalks. Listed among the more than half-dozen brand-name meetings properties in the ICC-connected group are Westin, Hyatt, Embassy Suites, Marriott and Omni hotels. Come January of next year the city adds another new property, the 209-room Alexander Hotel, with spectacular artwork commissioned to the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
3. OUT AND ABOUT
No trip to Indianapolis would be complete without some type of group outing, and the city provides faith-based attendees with a host of options. For starters, plan a visit to the Indianapolis Raceway, home of the famed annual Indy 500 in May and some great group venues. A must for the visiting VIP attendees: stopping and stooping at the track center to kiss the bricks like true champions. Need an elegant, fun option for a special event or spousal tour? Try the Indiana State Museum, just a short walk from downtown and the convention center. Downtown Indianapolis also features plenty of eye-catching shops and enticing restaurants, more accessible than ever now that a healthy chunk of Georgia Street has been closed to auto traffic.
4. STADIUM SEATING
For the largest of large faith-based events, Lucas Oil Stadium can accommodate. Home to the Colts, the venue is available almost year-round (except for a few Sundays in the fall) for teambuilding, trade shows and meetings. The stadium, which features a retractable roof, opened in 2008 and has 750,000 square feet of flexible meeting and exhibit space and seating for 67,000. Other major downtown venues include Bankers Life Fieldhouse (home of the NBA’s Pacers and WNBA’s Fever) and the NCAA National Headquarters, home to the popular Hall of Champions, which opens a new 16,000-sq.-ft. conference center overlooking the urban green space of White River State Park in June.