Former Indianapolis Colts player Gary Padjen is turning a vacant 18,000-square-foot building near Lucas Oil Stadium into a venue he hopes will host everything from Super Bowl parties and other corporate events to concerts and mixed martial arts bouts.
Padjen, 53, has named his facility The Crane Bay, and is using some of the large cranes that used to move goods around the former Westinghouse building at 551 Merrill St. as part of the decor of his new venue.
Padjen took control of the building, owned by Indianapolis-based Home Stove Realty, in August. Earlier this fall he got the building rezoned from heavy industrial to a classification for meetings and entertainment events. He said renovations are now more than 75-percent complete and the business is ready to take off.
The building has been mostly vacant for the last three years, Padjen said, with the exception of a short stint where it was used as a construction outpost during the Indiana Convention Center expansion.
Padjen, vice president of the local NFL Alumni chapter, said several NFL Alumni—and related charity—events are already being planned for the venue. But he said that’s just the beginning.
“Obviously, being just blocks from Lucas Oil Stadium, we want to capitalize on the Super Bowl,” Padjen said. “We’ve already had a number of inquiries. But beyond that, we think this will be a significant drawing card for events and visitors downtown for years to come.
“This is just the type of venue needed downtown,” added Padjen, who played special teams for the Colts from 1982-84 and in 1987. “It could bring the types of events you see at The Vogue [in Broad Ripple] downtown.”
The Crane Bay’s first event will be a party connected to the inaugural Big Ten Football Championship, which will be held Dec. 3 at Lucas Oil Stadium. Padjen said he’s also planning Christmas and New Year’s Eve parties.
“Around the holidays, we’re going to have a free, by-invitation-only event, to hopefully really show off this unique facility to the who’s-who of central Indiana,” Padjen said.
Padjen is investing $700,000 to overhaul the building’s interior. He hopes to recoup much of that from Super Bowl-related events alone. The Super Bowl is set for Feb. 5.
“The potential with the Super Bowl was a big reason we were able to obtain funding for this project, but The Crane Bay will be around as a first-class venue for a long time after that,” Padjen said.
In addition to building a new entry area and remodeling bathrooms, Padjen is constructing a stage, and installing a commercial sound system and a video wall that will feature as many as 50 flat-screen televisions. He also repainted and re-floored the entire interior.
Fully staffed, Padjen said The Crane Bay will have four full-time employees and more than 50 part-time and contract employees.
“This building was kind of an eyesore before,” Padjen said. “Now, I’m confident it’s going to be a first-class attraction for the downtown area with the ability to hold a wide variety of events.”