Bid says 2 new hotels possible before 2018 Super Bowl

In a 900-page bid for the 2018 Super Bowl, Indianapolis officials list the possibility of two new upscale hotels opening downtown by the time the game is played.

Indianapolis Super Bowl Bid Committee Chairwoman Allison Melangton said at a press conference Wednesday morning that a new hotel on the Pan Am Plaza site and another where the Illinois Building stands at Illinois and Market streets are both possible by February 2018.

The Pan Am site is owned by Indianapolis-based Kite Realty Group and the Illinois building is owned by a subsidiary of locally based Keystone Realty Group.

In addition Wednesday, Indianapolis Colts Chief Operating Officer Pete Ward announced that team owner Jim Irsay would attend the May 19-21 NFL owners meeting and would lobby for the city’s bid.

Irsay was arrested March 16 for allegedly driving under the influence and possession of a controlled substance. He was admitted into an out-of-state rehabilitation clinic in mid-March.

Ward said Irsay is doing “really well,” but declined further comment.

Local hospitality executives said Indianapolis’ bid committee has been pressing the two property owners on their plans as local officials prepared the 2018 Super Bowl bid. The deadline to turn that bid into the 32 NFL team owners is Wednesday, with a local contingent flying to Atlanta on May 20 to give a 15-minute oral presentation.

Indianapolis, with more than 30,000 hotel rooms in the metro area, already meets the bid specifications to host a Super Bowl, Melangton said. But after hosting the 2012 Super Bowl, several owners and league sponsors complained the city didn’t have enough upscale downtown hotel space.

Melangton said the new hotels would be a boost for the 2018 bid.

“For some [NFL] owners, it could impact their thinking,” Melangton said. “It would be a nice addition.”

But Leonard Hoops, CEO of Visit Indy, the city’s tourism marketing arm, cautioned that too many new hotel rooms in the market could hurt existing hotels.

“You don’t build a church for Easter Sunday,” Hoops said.

Plans for both sites are somewhat sketchy. Neither Kite nor Keystone officials have disclosed specific plans for their properties, but sources familiar with both development proposals said they include an upscale hotel.

Those sources said it is a “much greater” than 50-percent chance that at least one of those hotels will be done in time for the 2018 game should the city win the bid, adding that Kite is further along with its planning than Keystone.

Keystone would be renovating an existing building, however, and that project might not take quite as long as construction of a new facility on the Pan Am Plaza site.

Kite and Keystone officials couldn’t be reached for comment.

The Pan Am Plaza site is an especially important one, said Hoops, because it’s less than a block from the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium, and would likely be connected to both via skywalk.

Kite officials have previously acknowledged to IBJ they have plans for a mixed-use development on that site, including a high-rise hotel, restaurants, retail and high-end residential space. Hospitality sources said a 15-story twin-tower arrangement is being discussed for that site, featuring two hotel brands.

It’s likely that both developers would seek financial assistance from the city to complete their project. Deron Kintner, Indianapolis deputy mayor for economic development, said city officials haven’t had “detailed discussions” with either property owner.

Mayor Greg Ballard has not yet taken a position on the development of new downtown hotels or whether the city should help fund those developments.

“The mayor would have to see the plans and closely examine hotel occupancy and projections for convention and visitor growth in the city before taking any kind of position,” Kintner said.

Time appears to be of the essence. It would likely take three to four months to get any sort of comprehensive incentive package hammered out and approved for such a project. Real estate and hospitality experts said it would take two to four years to build a hotel.

If Indianapolis fails to win the bid, both developers are likely to tap the brakes on their plans, hospitality sources said.

Indianapolis is facing serious competition from the other finalists: Minneapolis, which is building a $975 million stadium, and New Orleans, which is celebrating its tricentennial in 2018.

A sports-hospitality expert said Irsay's help with the bid is likely to help Indianapolis in its effort.

“Jim Irsay is well-liked among NFL owners,” said Marc Ganis, a Chicago-based sports business consultant who counts several NFL teams as clients. “His presence is very important.”

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