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ICVA nearing hotel room-reservation target for 2010

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The organization responsible for keeping the Indiana Convention Center busy is closing in on a year-end goal to increase the amount of hotel room nights it books as an expansion of the building nears completion.

Through mid-December, the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association had hit roughly 93 percent of its target of booking 650,000 room nights this year for future conventions.

Final sales figures for December won’t be available until the end of the month. But the organization fully expects to hit its goal, ICVA spokesman Chris Gahl said.

“Based on where we stand as of Nov. 30, and based on the glimpse through Dec. 20, we’re highly confident we’ll hit or exceed 100 percent of our room nights,” he said.

The convention center expansion is set to officially open Jan. 20 with a program that will include appearances by Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard.

The expansion adds 254,000 square feet of exhibit space, 63,000 square feet of meeting space, and 103,000 square feet of so-called pre-function space to the existing center.

Including Lucas Oil Stadium, the total amount of convention and meeting space increases from 725,000 square feet to 1.2 million square feet—pushing Indianapolis from 33rd to 16th place among major convention-hosting cities.

More convention space and the addition of another large hotel, the 1,000-room JW Marriott, scheduled to open in February, is putting additional pressure on ICVA to lure bigger conventions to the city.

This year’s room-night goal of 650,000 surpasses 2009’s aim of 500,000. Ultimately, 800,000 room nights will need to be booked annually to meet the demands of the center expansion and additional hotel, Gahl said.

ICVA considers conventions in which 3,000 room nights are reserved as “large.” It is striving to increase the number of those big conferences and trade shows from about 20 to 30 a year.

So far, 13 large conventions have cooked for 2011, 19 in 2012, 15 in 2013, and 12 in 2014.

In November, the Washington, D.C.-based American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education reserved 4,712 room nights for a 2014 conference and the Boulder, Colo.-based Geological Society of America reserved 7,996 room nights for a 2018 gathering.

The holiday season provides little rest for ICVA, which is competing against several other cities that have increased their convention space as well.

“Nearly 20 sales team members are still actively picking up the phone, hosting prospective clients to the city, and going to visit meeting planners at their offices,” Gahl said.

Construction of the $275 million convention center expansion was 99 percent complete as of Dec. 10, John Klipsch, director of the Indiana Stadium and Convention Building Authority, told the Capital Improvement Board at its Dec. 13 meeting. CIB operates the convention center, as well as the city’s professional sports venues.

A few interesting tidbits about the expansion: It contains 30,000 cubic yards of concrete, 8,000 tons of structural steel, 460,000 square feet of roofing, 3 million feet of electrical wiring, 168,000 feet of mechanical piping, and 8,500 light fixtures.

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