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Overlapping downtown events give hotels a boost

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The annual Fire Department Instructors Conference is one of the largest conventions hosted by the city of Indianapolis and typically provides a sizable boost for downtown hoteliers.

But during this year's event, hotel rooms in the city will be even scarcer, and pricier, than usual, particularly toward the end of the week. That’s because FDIC overlaps with another large downtown event, the Race for the Cure, on Saturday.

“This one happens to clip Race for a Cure by a day,” said Chris Gahl, spokesman for the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association. “There is that overlap, so hotel rates downtown will be prime.”

Billed as the world’s largest firefighter training conference and trade show, FDIC has hosted its annual convention in Indianapolis since 1995. This year’s event runs Monday through Saturday and is expected to draw nearly 30,000 firefighters from across the country, generating an economic impact of $28 million.

Race for the Cure, the annual downtown event benefiting the Indianapolis affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, is expected to draw 15,000 to 20,000 participants for the 5-kilometer race and 1-mile family walk.

Komen participants who managed to book rooms for Friday night, combined with the already strong demand from FDIC, are helping to push prices for any remaining rooms above $300 a night, according to hoteliers.

The 573-room Westin Indianapolis on South Capital Avenue has been sold out for weeks, said its general manager, Dale McCarty.

“It sells out every year,” he said. But between [FDIC and Race for the Cure], the demand is incredibly strong.”

The same goes for the nearby Indianapolis Marriott Downtown on West Maryland Street, which has 622 rooms. They’re booked the next six days, General Manager Phil Ray said.

“There are just very few rooms available downtown, so you’re seeing a push out into the suburbs and to the airport,” Ray said.

Race for the Cure participants wanting to arrive downtown the night before might have better luck if they book two nights and stay until Sunday, because they may be able to get a cheaper rate by adding the additional night, Ray said.

“But if you’re coming in for that one night,” he said, “you’re going to pay a premium.”

Race for the Cure events will be held on Saturday at Military Park, with the 5K run starting at 9 a.m. and the one-mile walk following 45 minutes later.

FDIC exhibitors, meanwhile, will command all of the 745,000 square feet of combined space inside the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium, where the newest firetrucks and emergency response vehicles will be on display.

“It’s a very visual convention,” Gahl said. “Along with National FFA and Gen Con, it’s probably the most visible convention the city hosts.”

The yearly FDIC party hosted by Indianapolis Professional Firefighters Local 416 will be held on a portion of Georgia Street Friday evening instead of its typical site, the firefighters’ union hall on Massachusetts Avenue. The party usually is attended by more than 20,000 firefighters.

Wayne Smith, president of the union, said it chose the location because of the “newness” of the thoroughfare. The union usually puts up tents near its hall to accommodate the flood of visitors, but won’t be doing that this year on Georgia Street.

“It’s all about the weather for us,” he said.

The FDIC convention wraps up at noon on Saturday.
 

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