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EDITORIAL: Convention center must have exceptional technology

August 17, 2018

Anyone who’s needed to use the internet while attending meetings or events at the Indiana Convention Center could not have been terribly surprised by a story in last week’s IBJ about technology at the facility.

David Hoppe, president of Gen Con LLC, which stages the city’s most valuable annual convention, told Visit Indy officials in an email earlier this year that the convention center needs to be made more technologically advanced.

City and hospitality officials say they have been working on it.

Convention center officials have invested $2.5 million in technology since 2016 to increase internet bandwidth, replace network equipment and lay additional fiber.

But Gen Con attendees say they still had problems with slow internet access, dropped calls and dead zones.

That’s more than just inconvenient. A gaming convention—even one focused largely on table games—relies on good internet access.

So do other conventions. Attendees expect to use mobile phone apps to track their convention schedules and find their way around the massive spaces.

Convention presenters want to stream videos and other presentations and read from notes they’ve pulled down from the cloud. Trade show vendors need technology to show off their wares and services.

And convention organizers want to use wireless, paperless ticketing options to make registration and special events much easier.

Frankly, those are the basics. Any successful convention center must be able to support those needs. And yet, Debbie Locklear, president of locally based Meeting Services Unlimited Inc., told IBJ the Indiana Convention Center is well-known for its spotty technology.

When presenters are making speeches, she said in the story by John Russell, it’s not unusual for the internet service to drop without warning.

“We have problems all the time with their internet connection, and with having enough bandwidth available to us,” she said.

That’s not acceptable. The Indiana Convention Center should strive not just to be good enough for conventions but to be exceptional, to provide some of the best technology in the industry.

In fact, technology will increasingly be as important to convention organizers as the amount of space a facility offers. And Indianapolis is a downtown supported in large part by convention and tourism business.

We believe city and hospitality officials when they say they’re working to make technological improvements. But we urge them not to take too long—and not to settle for good enough. Let’s go for exceptional.

It’s not just Gen Con that might take a walk. It might be only the first to find another host city.•

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To comment on this editorial, write to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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