Boom, baby: Tourism industry preps for growth: Convention center, stadium may add thousands of jobs

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The dirt is still fresh from the Colts’ stadium ground breaking, but local hospitality professionals already are planning for the growth it will spur in their industry.

Experts project as many as 25,000 additional jobs by 2010, when both the stadium and a 275,000-square-foot expansion of the Indiana Convention Center are scheduled to be complete. That tally counts jobs created in those facilities as well as in hotels, restaurants and other attractions.

Officials expect 4,200 jobs to be added in the new facilities themselves, everything from convention setup crews to sound technicians and electricians.

“Each one of these presents an opportunity for a career path,” said Bob Schultz, communications director for the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association.

While many of the jobs may be entrylevel, Schultz said employees could work into higher-level and management positions. Managers earn $25,000 to $50,000 a year, according to a 2005 Indiana Hotel and Lodging Association survey.

The rate at which jobs are created will depend on how quickly the expanded convention center attracts additional events.

Still, local trade group Minorities in Hospitality has begun preparing college hospitality students for the growth, hosting 15 of them at a roundtable discussion last month.

MiH President Glenda Wilson said students can get involved now through entrylevel jobs, internships or volunteering.

“There are just so many different components that make up the hospitality business, it’s going to create a need,” said Wilson, director of marketing and events for the Indianapolis-based Black Coaches Association.

Recent growth at IUPUI’s Tourism Department also may feed into the growing job market. In the last four years, enrollment has increased 400 percent, to 350 students, department Chairman Sotiris Avgoustis said.

Avgoustis said his department is emphasizing a strong academic background as well as professional experience to prepare students for positions.

“There will be more employers looking for people with experience,” he said. “Tourism is a field where both education and experience are paramount in ensuring success for our students.”

How many jobs are created outside the new facilities will depend on the demand for additional hospitality services.

The convention center already hosts 40 citywide conventions a year, Schultz said, filling downtown hotel rooms and spilling over into outlying hotels. ICVA has begun working to add 20 to 25 citywide conventions and four or five trade shows, he said.

Consultants who studied the convention center expansion last year said downtown likely will need a 1,000-room hotel to accommodate additional visitors. That can be accomplished by building a new hotel or adding to an existing one, they said.

Hospitality veteran John Livengood, who heads the Restaurant and Hospitality Association of Indiana and the Indiana Hotel and Lodging Association, said a hotel has opened nearly every time the convention center has grown. And a large hotel could add as many as 500 jobs.

Livengood also expects growth in restaurants.

“You are going to see more restaurants looking for places downtown to locate,” he said, and existing eateries also may look to expand.

Downtown restaurants earn at least half their revenue from visitors, he said.

While the hospitality industry is buzzing about the growth, Livengood said it might see a period of declining business first, since two of the city’s largest conventions are moving to other cities until the expansion is complete.

“We are going to go through a tough time for a few years,” he predicted.

But once the stadium and convention center are complete, the hospitality industry and the city alike are poised to see the benefits.

“The whole hospitality industry is a major economic engine in our community,” he said.

IUPUI student Rasheeda Moore attended the hospitality roundtable to start networking and to learn about the industry. She anticipates the convention center expansion will help her and other students with internships and jobs in coming years. After graduating in 2010, Moore plans to start an event-planning business.

“I am trying to get out there as much as possible so I can get the experience I need,” she said.

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