As new hotel plans emerge, existing operators fret

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During the second half of 2014, developers announced that four new hotels would open over the next two to three years—a time the city’s convention schedule is looking light.

A new brand from the Hilton chain—Canopy by Hilton—will occupy the vacant Illinois Building just west of Monument Circle. Developers propose nearly 200 rooms.

A 102-room hotel is in the works as part of the redevelopment of the Consolidated Building at 115 N. Pennsylvania St. A Home2 Suites by Hilton is set to be built in the annex at the rear of the vacant, 15-story structure.

Both projects will likely be completed by 2016.

A third project is being considered across Pennsylvania Street from Bankers Life Fieldhouse, as announced in August. That development would house two brands—Aloft and Element—and add 286 rooms. The project would take more time to complete than the other two, but might open sometime in 2017.

In addition, the former Canterbury Hotel was remodeled and rebranded as a Le Meridien, meaning 99 rooms that were off the market since January came back on line in early December.

Those developments, coupled with long-range plans for a massive hotel on the Pan Am Plaza site, had local hospitality officials worried about oversaturation.

Fueling those fears was a midyear report from Visit Indy that local convention and corporate meeting business is likely to be down in 2015 and 2016.

In response, Visit Indy is searching for smaller corporate gatherings planned one to two years out rather than the major conventions’ four to six years. Visit Indy is also offering discounted food and beverage, audio/visual equipment rental, and wireless service to groups that will come the next two years.

“We’re not sitting idle,” said Visit Indy Vice President Chris Gahl. “We’re being creative and aggressive.”

The convention downturn was caused by losing Powersports Dealer Expo and ExactTarget’s Connections conference, which combined attracted 20,000-plus for multiple days, and not landing other targeted conventions. Dealer Expo left after 2013 for Chicago, while Connections—a high-profile digital-marketing convention—vacated after this year for New York City.

Snagging the massive Performance Racing Industry Show back from Orlando, Florida, helped lighten the blow, Gahl said.

Explore all of our 2014 Year in Review coverage.

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