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Tourism officials kept mum on NRA convention for years

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Visit Indy officials knew in 2010 when they finalized a deal to bring the National Rifle Association’s annual convention here in 2014 it would likely cause a stir.

But they also knew it would be the most lucrative trade show or convention in the city’s history, and that it could draw other big trade shows to the recently expanded Indiana Convention Center.

At the request of NRA officials, no local press release or other official statement was made about the trade show being held in Indianapolis, Visit Indy officials said Monday. The show is now just a few months off, with set-up scheduled to begin April 22, and the convention running April 25-27.

Usually, city tourism officials seek as much publicity as they can get as soon as a major deal is signed.

“Yes, we know the convention [could] be polarizing," said Visit Indy spokesman Chris Gahl. "We also know it will be the biggest convention we hold in 2014, drawing 65,000 to 70,000 visitors and with an economic impact of $55 million."

An NRA spokesman told IBJ on Monday that the group did not specifically ask Indianapolis officials to keep mum on the event. In fact, the group had attempted to make a public announcement in Indianapolis, he said.

“We tried to have a physical announcement in Indianapolis, maybe it was in 2010, I forget the year,” said NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam. “It was tough trying to get all the dignitaries lined up. It just never materialized."

The show has been well publicized among its members, Arulanandam said.

“We have marketed this to our membership on an ongoing basis," he said. "At last year’s show in Houston, we had a big banner up that said, 'See you in Indianapolis in 2014.'”

Gahl was quick to point out that there are other gun and knife shows held in Indianapolis. He also stressed the strong security the NRA maintains at its conventions.

“They are incredibly well organized,” Gahl said. “Their events have been held without incident for many decades.”

The second-largest gathering Indianapolis will host in 2014 is GenCon, which is expected to draw 49,000 visitors and have an economic impact of $49 million.

Visit Indy began calling the NRA seeking its huge, annual convention as early as 2006, when plans to expand the Indiana Convention Center and construct the 1,005-room JW Marriott were being rolled out.

“It’s not always easy to sell through the dust and debris, but we did just that,” Gahl said, explaining that some of NRA officials’ site visits to Indianapolis occurred while the Convention Center and JW Marriott were under construction.

The NRA annual convention will draw 700 exhibitors. They will feature a variety of firearms, as well as hunting, camping and other outdoor gear and equipment that will be for sale. The show also features big-name speakers and other entertainment. Former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin was a featured speaker at last year’s show.

Arulanandam said that registrations for this year’s event have been coming in strong.

“We think because of Indianapolis’ central location, attendance could be quite high,” he said. “We have a lot of membership in or nearby the area, and the infrastructure they have in Indianapolis is a great fit for us.”

He acknowledged that there have been some protests at past NRA conventions, but said there have been no major disturbances.

“We respect the right of others to exercise their First Amendment rights, and we hope people respect our rights to exercise our First and Second Amendment rights,” he said.

The show will be good business for Indianapolis, Gahl said.

“This show requires a considerable set-up and has a number of moving parts. It will demonstrate what we can do in terms of hosting a mega, city-wide show,” Gahl said. “This is the type of show that a lot of cities pursue. This is something we’re already touting with other meeting and convention planners.”

The NRA generally only signs one-year deals for its annual convention. There’s little doubt, Gahl said, that Visit Indy officials will seek to bring the NRA back after 2014.

Once cities land the lucrative NRA annual convention, Arulanandam said, they often bid to get it back. In the last 15 years, Charlotte, Houston, St. Louis and Pittsburgh have each held the event twice.
 

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  • God n gunz
    I’ve noticed anti-gun folks jumping on the fact that Franklin Graham is leading the NRA Annual Meeting Prayer Breakfast, and they hope that he’ll publicly challenge NRA at their own event to accept the President’s background check agenda since Graham endorsed the White House’s private transfer ban proposals last year..." a concern from a pro-gun PA blog. So he/they are concerned that Rev Graham will make mention of gun ownership responsibilities. Shame on him!
  • Reputation
    Indy is getting a reputation for violence and has a murder rate that is apparently higher than New York. Seems only right that the NRA should want to meet here. Our citizens must be their biggest customers "....I just wanna sell guns" will become our motto
  • NRA Proud
    Glad the City of Indianapolis is hosting the NRA. I have a challenge for those opposed…..do not take any of their money when they are in town. If you are in business and against them, refuse to sell any of your products to their members in town. If you are a server in a local bar or restaurant take the time off so their evil money will not tip you…you get the point. As for me and our business, we welcome them as we do any and all conventions, some of which I may not agree with their stands. I am guessing the only ones that will be causing trouble will be those opposed, that will be what causes extra police and security needs, it will not be from the NRA convention goers!
  • well said
    Bobby well said and to the point
  • That right..it's called a convention center
    Glad to hear we have landed a big time convention like this. Isn't this why we expanded our convention center? NRA members are also very likely to spend some money on dining out, etc while in town. Keeping "mum" on it? I get that. Visit Indy officials know they are going to get some whining from a very VOCAL and very SMALL minority of Indy Metro residents. So limit the amount of time wasted responding to their "concerns", and wait to announce as long as possible. Sounds like Visit Indy is doing a great job!
  • Their own fault
    When I was a kid, the NRA was a respectable gun safety organization you could be proud of, and no one would have had to ask to keep its convention on the DL. It's very sad what that organization has become.
  • Security
    Taxpayers shouldn't pay a dime for security... gun nuts can defend themselves, right? Good guys with guns?
  • Fear of evil not guns
    Fear is a powerfully motivating factor. It is fear - and ignorance - that keeps many away from guns and those who choose to own and keep guns in the home or conceal carry. Knowledge, however, drives away fear. Learning about guns; studying about guns; talking to informed people about guns, maybe at the NRA convention you could become knowledgeable about the laws,about the people who are law abiding citizens who desire to take responsibility over their life and those they love to drive out the fear. I still fear for the safety of myself and my family, but I know I'm prepared to act should I ever have to. That's my right and my responsibility.
  • Free Speech At Work
    These comments reflect a wide range of views as one would expect. Many of them are right. 2nd amendment interpretations vary. Yes, the convention will draw goofballs like Palin and Ted Nugent but most conventions attract goofballs. Yes, it will bring money to Indianapolis but lets hope the taxpayers don't have to pay the extra security costs. Many people, like me, believe the country needs stronger gun controls (background checks and closed gun show loopholes) but we shouldn't punish the NRA for having a big meeting in Indianapolis. I am confident the police, FBI, and ATF will keep an eye on the goofballs including the big one, Wayne Lapier.
  • Be proud to host this event
    I think it's terrific the city landed this event! I'm proud to financially support the NRA and its fight against gun grabbing busy bodies. Congratulations to the city of Indianapolis for hosting this honorable organization.
  • Uneducated
    Dear Garland - You're welcome to go on line and actually read the Second Amendment. you should also read the numerous papers, public and private, from the Founders and Framers. Doing so will indeed enlighten you that it is an "individual's" right, just as the Supreme Court has indicated in the past few years. Your comments regarding gun madness are completely unfounded. Firearms are one of the most regulated item in the US. To say otherwise indicates your lack of knowledge on the subject. Perhaps that's an indicator of the breakdown of our education system......
  • please take a law course
    >>2nd Amendment that talks about gun ownership within the context of a well regulated militia<< A shallow, amateurish interpretation that's failed before the SCOTUS; competence in legal analysis or even English composition is all it takes to shoot it down. It's the contingent believing that view that's had to resort to legalistic contortions, gymnastics and outright illegal legislation.
  • Secrecy
    I'm not sure why the city had to keep this quiet since the NRA has had it posted on their website since last year's event in Houston. Looking forward to going and experiencing the event.
  • What's the big deal?
    So the big deal here is that Indy residents don't want people to convene and talk about a common interest? When did this place turn into Iran? I don't support the NRA either, but I'm not sure why everyone is so upset. They are bringing money into town and helping to pay off our hugely expensive new convention center. If you don't like them, write your lawmaker or go protest outside the convention.
  • By
    Good time to plan a vacation out of Indy, esp. if Sarah Palin and her 'I'm a victim' roadshow is part of the itinerary, as I am sure it will get endless play on local news media.
  • Lowers crime
    Garland Hopewell, nobody sold my soul for the Super Bowl. That turned out well for all of central Indiana. I hope you were able to come out and enjoy the festivities of that week. In fact, I'm most hopeful for another in four years. I do however believe the week of the NRA show will be an even better week to take part. The crime rate will likely be very low that week. While I agree there could be some tweaks to gun laws; like severe penalties for losing control of your weapons to mentally unstable family members and strengthening mental illness rules, it has been proven that violent crime is reduced when the public is well armed. If you would prefer to remain unarmed in this increasingly violent society, then do so. But you may not infringe upon others right to bear arms. Nobody is embarrassed about touting the great success of our convention and visitors bureau. The NRA asked them not to announce it because they knew there would be people offended for no valid reason. The story also said officials have been using this news in their marketing efforts to bring other profitable conventions to town. This helps keep our regional area alive and vibrant. The kind of place we all want to live. Have a nice, safe, day.
    • Glad to see the NRA comming
      Having been to several NRA conventions, I am pleased to see it in Indy. The conventions are indeed well run and bring interesting exhibits, including ones on American history that are great for families. No doubt the convention's presence here will get the hoplophobes' usual overreaction, but the rest of us thank Visit Indy for taking the longer and more rational view.
    • Thanks but no thanks
      Yes, its always a good sign when they want to keep a major convention under wraps. Hope it's not the taxpayers that will be paying for the extra security (re: protesters) that will be needed for this type of show.
    • More GenCon / Less NRA
      Lets get more GenCon type conventions. Their per attendee economic benefit is more than the NRA'ers, and their weapons are pretend.
    • And the prostitution continues.
      First we sell our souls for a Super Bowl and now this. If we were embarrassed to announce it when we landed the darn thing, maybe we should have not done it in the first place? Told them to take their antiquated 2nd Amendment rationalizations and out-of-control gun madness somewhere more fitting for their purposes...like Texas or Alabama or Mississippi. Or maybe Colorado or Hartford where they could maybe embrace some of the communities they and their lapdogs in Congress have played such a huge role in decimating in recent years....guns don't kill people...people being allowed to have guns unregulated kill people. You know that part of the 2nd Amendment that talks about gun ownership within the context of a well regulated militia? I think the NRA needs to read that part too. This is an embarrassment.

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