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NEWS UPDATE: Essentials intact in convention center plan

June 25, 2007
Indianapolis-based Ratio Architects today unveiled final plans for a 420,000-square-foot expansion of the Indiana Convention Center.

Among the details: 254,000 square feet of additional exhibit space, 63,000 square feet of meeting rooms, a new banquet kitchen and 100,000 square feet of so-called "pre-function space"-including three-story entry pavilion planned for the intersection of Capitol Avenue and Georgia Street.

Plans also call for a covered connector between the convention center and Lucas Oil Stadium, which is being built to replace the RCA Dome. The connector will stretch south from the center along Capitol, then go underground at the CSX railroad tracks before crossing South Street.

Construction on the $275 million convention center project is slated to begin in late 2008, after the dome is torn down.

With plans in hand, city boosters will take their show on the road as they look to book events in the expanded center, said Bob Schultz, spokesman for the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association.

"They're already standing in line," he said.

Ratio CEO Bill Browne brought members of the Indiana Stadium and Convention Building Authority up to speed at their meeting this afternoon. The state agency controls the construction project, and Marion County's Capital Improvement Board will manage the facility when it opens in 2010.

The design leaves room for additional expansion down the road, Browne said, including more pre-function space and another ballroom. Early plans called for adding a ballroom now, but that was included as part of the proposed JW Marriott convention hotel instead.

Representatives of the state and local agencies have been at the drawing board in recent months, trying to make sure the project comes in on budget. CIB President Fred Glass told IBJ earlier this month that the parties already have agreed to "substantial cuts" to certain amenities.

From convention center managers' point of view, the additional exhibit space, meeting rooms and stadium connector were essential. Glass said the compromises have come in the "back of the house" amenities such as loading docks and storage space.

Cost is a factor as the stadium price tag keeps climbing. As of mid-June-a year before the project is scheduled to be complete-just $16 million remained in a $90 million contingency fund built into the stadium's $625 million budget.

Still, officials said they would not raid convention center coffers to cover stadium costs. The projects were approved in 2005.

When complete, the expanded Indiana Convention Center will be the 16th-largest such facility in the country and the second-largest among Indianapolis' peer cities, behind only Atlanta.

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