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Former Colt opening downtown event venue

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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.”

 

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  1. How much you wanna bet, that 70% of the jobs created there (after construction) are minimum wage? And Harvey is correct, the vast majority of residents in this project will drive to their jobs, and to think otherwise, is like Harvey says, a pipe dream. Someone working at a restaurant or retail store will not be able to afford living there. What ever happened to people who wanted to build buildings, paying for it themselves? Not a fan of these tax deals.

  2. Uh, no GeorgeP. The project is supposed to bring on 1,000 jobs and those people along with the people that will be living in the new residential will be driving to their jobs. The walkable stuff is a pipe dream. Besides, walkable is defined as having all daily necessities within 1/2 mile. That's not the case here. Never will be.

  3. Brad is on to something there. The merger of the Formula E and IndyCar Series would give IndyCar access to International markets and Formula E access the Indianapolis 500, not to mention some other events in the USA. Maybe after 2016 but before the new Dallara is rolled out for 2018. This give IndyCar two more seasons to run the DW12 and Formula E to get charged up, pun intended. Then shock the racing world, pun intended, but making the 101st Indianapolis 500 a stellar, groundbreaking event: The first all-electric Indy 500, and use that platform to promote the future of the sport.

  4. No, HarveyF, the exact opposite. Greater density and closeness to retail and everyday necessities reduces traffic. When one has to drive miles for necessities, all those cars are on the roads for many miles. When reasonable density is built, low rise in this case, in the middle of a thriving retail area, one has to drive far less, actually reducing the number of cars on the road.

  5. The Indy Star announced today the appointment of a new Beverage Reporter! So instead of insightful reports on Indy pro sports and Indiana college teams, you now get to read stories about the 432nd new brewery open or some obscure Hoosier winery winning a county fair blue ribbon. Yep, that's the coverage we Star readers crave. Not.

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