The Gen Con Indy gaming convention and the MotoGP motorcycle race are among several events the city is hosting this weekend that could produce a direct economic impact of $150 million, city hospitality officials estimate.
More than 100,000 visitors are expected to converge on the city for just those two events, creating a boon for restaurants and hoteliers who will benefit from the economic impact that might rival the $176 million generated by the Super Bowl.
“This is truly a monumental weekend,” said Chris Gahl, spokesman for the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association. “We’re considering this weekend a virtual sellout, and that’s not only in our downtown core. The suburban hotel properties are benefiting also.”
Gen Con, one of the city’s largest annual conventions, and the MotoGP Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix have never taken place on the same weekend.
As part of the fifth-annual MotoGP race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, about 10,000 riders are expected to participate in the Motorcycles on Meridian event, in which they’ll showcase their bikes Friday and Saturday on South Meridian Street.
In addition, country crooner Blake Shelton will perform at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Friday as part of the Indiana State Fair concert series, and the IndyFringe Festival begins Friday and runs through Aug. 26. IndyFringe features 68 different productions at seven theater spaces.
For the upscale Conrad Indianapolis, the weekend is shaping up to be “solid,” said Tim Miller, director of sales and marketing for the downtown hotel.
“It’s great excitement for the city,” he said, “and it should be a fun weekend for everybody who’s in town.”
Gen Con, which runs from Thursday through Sunday at the Indiana Convention Center, kicks off the festivities.
Pre-registrations are up roughly 25 percent over 2011 and exhibit space has been sold out since January—both strong signs that this year’s attendance will be the biggest ever. That’s pretty impressive considering the lingering economic uncertainty and the fact that last year drew the largest crowd in the 45-year-old gaming convention’s history.
Gen Con arrived in Indianapolis in 2003 and is celebrating its 10th year here this weekend. Total turnstile attendance has risen from 82,000 in 2005, the first year for which the organization has reliable figures, to 120,000 last year, a 46-percent increase.
To the delight of downtown businesses, Gen Con will be in Indianapolis for several years to come.
In December, the convention’s parent, Seattle-based Gen Con LLC, announced a five-year agreement with ICVA that will keep it in the city through 2020. Gen Con had a previous commitment through 2015.
“Gen Con is a perfect example of if you built it, we will stay,” Gahl said of the $275 million convention center addition that opened in January 2011.
Attendance for MotoGP’s Sunday main event last year was 64,151, a slight improvement from 2010’s 62,749, according to MotoGP officials.
But the three-day total going through the turnstiles at the Speedway last year was 134,766, the lowest of the event’s four-year stint in Indianapolis.