New downtown concert venue to seat 15,000

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An outdoor concert venue soon will take center stage on the site of the former General Motors metal-stamping plant on the western edge of downtown, sources tell IBJ as plans for the facility firm up.

An official announcement that the concert venue will be part of the GM site's redevelopment plan is expected within weeks, people familiar with the project said. It will have capacity for 15,000 people, according to one source.

Ground could be broken as soon as December. The amphitheater will share the 102-acre GM site with a proposed Marion County criminal justice complex.

The criminal justice center, which will replace jail, court and other law-enforcement facilities now located in the southeast quadrant of downtown, could cost as much as $500 million and is estimated to take about 40 acres of the site.

IBJ reported in January that a proposal from local developer REI Investments to build an outdoor concert venue had emerged as the favorite in a bid to redevelop the former GM stamping plant site.

REI President Mike Wells declined to comment Tuesday on the progess of those plans, citing a confidentiality agreement with the Michigan-based Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response, or RACER Trust, the entity charged with selling the site. RACER officials said they would not comment until negotiations are complete.

REI’s plans for an amphitheater have the support of the city, said Deron Kintner, deputy mayor for economic development.

“I had always assumed the concert venue was moving forward,” he said. “I think they’re probably working toward a decision, but I wouldn’t want to assume where they are in the process.”

The timing finally might be right to build a large concert venue downtown. The original plan for Deer Creek Music Center in Noblesville (now Klipsch Music Center) called for it to be downtown. But a slow approval process and opposition from residents derailed that version of the project.

And the concert industry appears to be rebounding from the recession and posting strong sales. The 24,000-seat Klipsch facility sold almost 570,000 tickets to 34 shows last year, the most in recent history, while ticket sales were up 60 percent from 2011 when it scheduled about 10 fewer events, IBJ reported in June.

It’s unclear what the plans would mean for White River State Park, whose development commission is exploring $10 million in construction improvements to the Farm Bureau Insurance Lawn at White River State Park, which has hosted concerts since 2004. Calls to park Executive Director Robert Whitt were not returned.

Three other developers were vying to redevelop the GM property: Ambrose Property Group, Buckingham Cos. and Keystone Group.

Plans from Ambrose and Buckingham primarily were mixed-use developments with office, residential and retail components, while the proposal from Keystone contained plans for a soccer stadium where the fledgling Indy Eleven soccer team could play.

REI has a long track record of developing projects downtown. It recently developed the JW Marriott-anchored hotel campus on the west side of the Mile Square with Merrillville-based White Lodging, helping the city land the 2012 Super Bowl.

The city of Indianapolis, meanwhile, likely won’t select a developer for the justice center until later this year, said Adam Collins, deputy director of the bond bank.

“What we’re looking at today is probably a November selection with approval coming sometime at the end of this year or beginning of next year,” he said. “Right now we’re focused on getting the RFP [request for proposals] to bidders so that we have bids that come in that are highly competitive.”

Three development teams have been asked to design plans that include 34 criminal court/hearing rooms and offices for the Marion County Sheriff’s Office and the Probation Department.

The center is expected to include a 3,500-bed detention facility (an increase of 1,100 beds from current capacity), 750 community correction beds (a 250-bed increase), 1,500 parking spaces and room for future expansion.

Construction of the justice center should be finished by the end of 2018, Collins said.


  • Music Venue/Waterpark
    Maybe they could work together. there's lots of room.
    I still believe the best use of this 102 acre site is a water/theme park. It would provide jobs for the area, would tie in with the zoo and White River State Park, would be accessable to all residents and would revitalize that part of town. Easy access for out of town guests from I-70. Marion County residents would have discounted admission prices.
  • Get your facts right
    I haven't heard anything about tax payers money for this concert venue...when Deer Creek was built there was nothing around it.Now look at all the delvopement there. Same thing will happen here. Go Indy!!!
  • Hold us back
    First of all the mayor has done a GREAT job of moving us forward. Second, some of these people want to keep the old mind set of keeping Indiana/Indianapolis 30 years behind the rest of the world. What are you supposed to do, never move forward on projects because of a few people do not understand economics work? Keep complaining about imaginary tax theft and start your pro-Hogsett propaganda. I know you still leave in 1970 mentally.
  • RE: Upset Taxpayer TOO
    Upset Taxpayer TOO, there really is nothing we can do to fight the crony capitalism in this city except for making sure we vote Greg Ballard out of office next November. Joe Hogsett is not beholden to REI, Keystone, etc. He will stand up for the citizens of this city, not for the Downtown Mafia.
  • Not a big fan
    I really would like my streets fixed and the infrastructe fixed more than another entertainment place I can not afford to go as Middle class tax payer.
  • Its Not a Stadium
    Its a concert venue not a stadium...still the dollars requested will feel like we're building another stadium. IBJ, tell us how we taxpayers can tell the city NO. What is the process other than complaining on blogs few read?
  • Another handout to Developers
    RACER Trust would not engage with this developer on a stadium plan without the City's involvement. REI would not be proposing a stadium unless they knew the Mayor's administration supported it, so they could get approvals thru the MD Commission. They'll probably get approvals first before telling us what we're going to pay for--yes we'll pay for it. Trust you me, there is NO WAY this plan has been concocted without a plan for the developer to stick their hand out for yet another contribution from the city to fund the portion of the cost they will sell later and profit from. This is the way all the developers "risk" their resources - have the government fund the costs beyond their financial breakeven point, but then they get all the profit later if they sell it for more. So taxpayers need to decide if this is how they want their dollars spent on downtown redevelopment...or so we want something else for those dollars? We need downtown redevelopment supported by City/State sometimes...is this what we need and now, in the midst of other needs? I think not but I'm just one vote....
    • OMG
      Seriously, some of you people really need to learn to read before contributing nonsense! The CITY did not make the choice to build an outdoor concert venue. The decision IS NOT, WAS NOT and NEVER WAS the city's to make. That decision, one that the CITY simply supports, is that of the RACER Trust, the MICHIGAN based entity charged with selling the site. Those of you think the best decision would have been to plow forward with a mixed-use residential project just don't have a good grasp on urban development. As much and as quickly as downtown is changing and has changed for the better over the past several years, we are still MANY YEARS from such a development at that site. It would fail, plain and simple. If the biggest argument against building the jail there in the first place was its proximity to the homes there on the near west side, what on earth makes you think that people are going to pay even MORE to live RIGHT next door? (Personally, I would have no problem with it). The concert venue, to me, is an excellent choice and could be an excellent way to kickstart development on that side of the river. It's easy to envision a whole new entertainment district with restaurants and night clubs as part of the bigger plan. Maybe even water taxis to ferry people back and for the between this location and the Zoo or other attractions this side of the river.
      • Love idea
        I think this could be a great idea providing they make the venue iconic looking. I am thinking Hollywood Bowl caliber. This will be seen from interstate 70 and will leave a lasting impression of Indy to the outside world. So hopefully the powers that be, insist developers get this right. I also hope the plans for the bridge to connect South Street is still in the master plan. I am not worried about the government complex next door, they could pile up some dirt and build a brick/iron decorative fence to buffer the two areas. Someone mentioned a water park, I think that would be a good draw if they could figure out to build one close to the city core (the future) . Also, if the Eleven want a new stadium in the future, I wander where that could be located now?
      • dumb
        we dont' need a concert venue downtown, the WRSP Lawn is GREAT!!! put more into that, make it better. plus why put a concert venue by the jails so all the jailbirds can hear the concerts? don't see the point in this
      • Get over the jail and MOVE on
        The jail is here to stay MOVE ON. Think we need another outdoor venue like we need a another Speedway. Mix use would be better than more parking lots man bring in tax income and property taxes that asphalt. The only good thing to say about this selection is will not build another stadium and now can improve IUPUI's .
      • Will miss The Lawn venue
        The reason I liked going to concerts at the White River State Park Lawn is because it has an intimate feel. I think the experience is better than at Klipsch because the crowd is smaller. A 15,000 ampitheater is just going to become another Klipsch. I hope we don't lose out on seeing some great acts come to town, especially the up and coming groups that maybe couldn't sell out a 15,000 venue. That is what makes The Lawn a unique venue.
      • Behind Bars
        So we'll have cuddly and fluffy animals behind bars on the north side of the street and a different kind of animal behind bars on the south side of the street.
      • noise
        This is not the proper location for an outdoor concert venue. There are many people that live nearby that will have to deal with the noise from concerts. Its not fair to those homeowners to do this to them!
      • transparency
        Why won't they release all of the proposals to the public? What are they trying to hide???
      • rock all the way downtown
        great use for a largely unnoticed piece of land that would otherwise just rot and pollute the river. my worry is proximity to the zoo and pi$$ing off the bears. As for choices of venues i would MUCH rather go to a big show 20 minutes away (or *GASP* that i could ride a bike to) rather than see a show in Lucas Oil or Bankers, two SPORTS venues that sound like crap.
      • I am convinced many who comment on here either can't read or refuse to. Lee, the $500 mil is for the Criminal Justice Center. It is being paid for by private investors and the City will pay rent on it. The Concert venue would most likely be funded by private investors, as Deer Creek was and run as a private business. Klipsch has been for sale a couple of times. The owners are just waiting for the right deal. An amusement park was planned for WRSP. It was to be a Tivoli Gardens type thing. Could never get traction or funding. Very few small theme parks survive. Size and diversity does matter. I think most on here do not have a clue what the Crim Justice Center will be like. From the outside you will have very little to tell you it is not another office/municipal building. Put the courts and offices up front in nice buildings and the lock up gets pushed to the rear towards the existing industrial. Without a sign telling you what it is you would never know. It must be coming up on an election year because of the all the negative comments leads me to believe the Mayors opponents are attacking.
      • RE: Negative People
        Man, you took the words right out of my mouth. What is it with all of these naysayers. Get out of your homes and enjoy life and you'll find out things are not that bad. A large outdoor venue donwtown is a great idea and a long time coming. It is also another great reason for mass transit if you are into that. I thought Shane's idea of a multi-use concert/soccer stadium is a brilliant use, if they can make the schedules work. I'd much rather drive downtown for a concert than almost to Madison County. Also, if you never been to a concert in Banker's Life or Lucas Oil, they suck. The accoustics are horrible.
      • Amusement /Water Park?
        So you would rather have young kids at an amusement water park next to the "nuclear waste site". HMMM, i am sure that will be cleaned up. As others have noted Bankers Life is just blocks from the current jails and courthouse. No known issues there...
      • LOL
        Great news and a terrific addition to the entertainment options available in WRSP and downtown, in general! Some of you people are just ridiculous. Is there some sort of link between development of outdoor concert venues and increased crime that I missed somewhere? I swear, some of you read a headline and start with the lame arguments just to see your opinion in writing on a blog. BAM! You're an author now.... Some of you complain that there are already enough venues downtown while not recognizing that each is very unique and caters to a specific type of show / act. Lucas Oil, BTW, shouldn't even be counted as a music venue (acoustics are horrible and concerts are rare there because of it). Both The Lawn and The Murat (especially The Murat) are better suited to smaller, more intimate performances. This leaves the new ampitheatre to compete with Bankers Life and I'm thinking they each would serve a different niche. Bankers has plenty of non-music activity to start with.
      • They should build multi use Concert/Soccer Stadium
        Seriously - why not combine the concert venue and soccer stadium into one facility-now that would make more sense.
      • this is great
        this will be great for downtown, bringing thousands of people to enjoy all the other attractions,stay in hotels, shop,go to resturants,paying TAXES,TAXES,TAXES...do you get is now!!This is great for Indy.
      • Negative People
        Man, does anyone ever have anything positive to say? You people need to get out and enjoy the city more. Maybe you'd enjoy doing something fun for a change.
        • Amusement/Water Park
          Agree amusement/water park would complement the zoo and the riverfront location. A permenant outdoor concert venue would be a nice addition. Biggest problem with this site is that adding a jail in a residential/entertainment area doesn't work and the west side of the GM site is a nuclear waste site that needs very expensive environmental remediation. Waste Lands- America's forgotten nuclear legacy. http://projects.wsj.com/waste-lands/state/IN/
          • on stop shopping
            Any unruly drunks from the concerts can be taken directly to the detention center. Think of the savings from less mileage on the squad cars!!
          • really, more crime and crowds downtwon
            I think it is a good idea for you that live downtown. Maybe the crime from Broad Ripple, Castleton, will come back your way. Have fun with that.
          • GM
            While I agree, we don't necessarily need another concert venue, I don't think housing in this location would work, being next to a jail. Who wants to live next to a jail?? I think a small amusement park would be a much better idea. Think of all the people that travel out to Kings Island. Some of that money they are spending could be kept in Indiana.
          • a prison next to an outdoor concert facility how quaint
            So how much does the city pony up for a 500 million dollar venue that most people will not be able to use or attend. Does this mean Verizon is going to be done away with. A concert hall near a polluting coal electric generation facility. Wow, isn't that wonderful, no infrastructure improvements for the majority of the population and a 15000 seat outdoor facility for those with deep pockets. I am sure it will cost more than it is worth in police patrols, crime, etc. Somehow, I see an irony in a Prison facility next to an open air facility for concerts. Does anyone see a problem with this. More than likely the facility will be prone to serving alcohol, the number one legal drug in America and the most destructive. So I suppose the Indianapolis government will again pony up hundreds of millions in incentives from citizens who will never use the facility, tax those who cannot afford it and benefit the top 10 percent of the community. There are destitute families within a 1 mile radius of wherethis is going to be, I assume they will force them out of their homes.
            • Point understood, however Frank
              While I understand the economic development part, I was merely saying this space should be used for something that will actually improve that area. Since they will already be knocking down housing in that area (I'm pretty sure of that), why not add housing (apt, condos) rather than a concert venue when clearly WRSP has that and does quite well. Jail n Jamz would be a corridor for the city that could be another "cultural" district.
            • Jail House Rock huh?
              What a terrible idea! What is going on in this city? We have been the darling of urban design and this is where we are headed? WTF?
            • jail 'N jamz
              I think it's great that the prisoners will be able to listen to jams from their cell as they await trial. # Lil Wayne. I'm sure the walls are not soundproof.
            • Funny
              Do people realize Bankers Life is right next to a jail and plenty of people to go events. So lets find a better argument.
            • Great idea. The city had a major fail when they didn't let Deer Creek go downtown. Bringing 10,000 to 15,000 people downtown several times a week will be a major boost to downtown and as a person who does not live on the northside to not have to spend an hour plus each way fighting I-69 traffic will be nice. It will also be nice to be able to eat at a downtown restaurant and then walk or grab a shuttle to the new venue. When was the last time Bankers Life hosted a concert in the summer or Lucas hosted a concert? Both are poor concert venues and will be far down the list for hosting ones. Since the owners of Klipsch have had it on the block to sell a couple of times, this will let them off load it while Indy gets a concert venue where it needs to be.
              • Ramz
                This is an economic development project - city planners are never involved with these projects. Your wrath should be directed at the wanna be developers at the Bond Bank. The ones with no planning or development experience.
                • so many choices
                  ahhhh, yeah...sure...I'll drive downtown to go to a concert right next to a criminal justice center....or I guess I could always drive to the east side to see a cricket game...
                • prisoners can staff the new facility
                  Good point, Gregg -- but how about taking it one step further -- the city can use the prisoners to help staff the concession stands, man the gates, help with parking and serve as ushers....keep the overhead low while providing skills training, "May I help you find your seat, Ma'am?"
                • Criminals To Enjoy Concerts
                  I think it is really being developed in order that the 3,500 criminals that will be occupying the detention center can also enjoy a concert during their stay.
                  • not needed/has to be a better use
                    Once again, the city is blowing it....as Ramz points out, there are enough venues downtown -- (and don't forget the Murat as well) why don't they try to come up with a decent residential or mixed use development to add to the tax rolls -- and perhaps beef up WRSP at the same time....no imagination, corrupt business practices, etc etc.
                  • Surprised Keystone didn't win the bid...
                    very surprising.
                  • Talk to Milwaukee
                    Milwaukee spent millions on a Theater complex next to their convention center than stand empty most of the year.
                  • This is so stupid
                    Hello? You have Bankers Life, Lucas Oil and WRSP as concert venues, so you plan to add another one? City planners have no clue what they are doing, and why is it the same companies vie for development yet no one else. This city is becoming more and more corrupt. I'll take Chicago corruption over this because at least Chicago's developments are unique and inspiring compared to what Indy has pulled off so far.
                    • 15K Seating
                      This is more a comp for the Lawn at White River than a replacement for Klipsch. Major national touring artists aren't going to stop at a site that seats less than 20K.
                    • ?
                      Is this really the best use of this prime piece of real estate? A redundant amphitheater that will only be used a few times a year?

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