American Dental Association bringing 2026 convention to Indy

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Indiana Convention Center (IBJ file photo)

The American Dental Association has chosen Indianapolis for its 2026 annual meeting—an event expected to draw more than 21,000 attendees to the city during the four-day event.

The event, scheduled for Oct. 8-11, 2026, will use the entire Indiana Convention Center, including a massive 50,000-square-foot ballroom and additional meeting space that’s slated to be built at Pan Am Plaza over the next few years.

The ADA, founded in 1859, is the nation’s oldest and largest dental association, with more than 160,000 members.

The convention is expected to have economic impact of $29.1 million, with 34,000 room nights booked throughout the city, said Chris Gahl, vice president of Visit Indy.

He said the tourism bureau has been trying to draw the Chicago-based dental association’s event to Indianapolis since 1999. The event attracts thousands of dentists who operate their own practices and dental office personnel, plus industry exhibitors trying to sell the latest in dental equipment and technology.

“It’s a big win for the local tourism industry, because of the time, effort and energy it took to get this group to say ‘yes’ to Indianapolis,” Gahl said. “It really shows that it can take years, sometimes decades, to turn someone’s attention. But it can pay off in a big way when you do.”

This year’s ADA conference is scheduled for Orlando. The 2021 and 2022 events will be held in Las Vegas and Houston, respectively.

The ADA had been holding off on signing its contract until it received assurances from city and tourism officials that the Pan Am Plaza redevelopment project—which includes a 120,000-square-foot expansion to the convention center and two hotels totaling about 1,400 rooms—will move forward as planned.

City officials said last week that it continues to work with local developer Kite Realty Group Trust on a development agreement for the project. Kite wants to have financing in place by the end of the first quarter, said Thomas Cook, the mayor’s chief of staff.

Visit Indy in late 2019 booked another major convention for 2026: The American Society of Association Executives, comprised of key decision-makers for where conventions are booked, will host its four-day conference in Indianapolis in August of that year.

The tourism group on Tuesday afternoon is slated to share other achievements from 2019 during its annual State of Tourism event at the Madam Walker Legacy Center.

Just more than 2 million hotel room nights were booked downtown in 2019, plus 5.32 million in Marion County and 7.94 million throughout the metropolitan statistical area. All three numbers were record highs.

Gahl said Visit Indy is waiting on a final report on annual economic impact and visitor counts from Pennsylvania-based firm Rockport Analytics. Those figures should be available in mid-February.

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