Indianapolis municipal and tourism leaders on Tuesday held a ceremonial groundbreaking for the expansion of the Indiana Convention Center on Pan Am Plaza, a milestone for a project that has been in the works for five years.
The development is expected to consist of two components: a $250 million expansion of the convention center, including a 50,000-square-foot ballroom, along with meeting and pre-function space; and a towering, 800-room Signia by Hilton-brand hotel with a current price tag of about $510 million.
The ceremony follows months of construction work beneath the plaza to stabilize certain structures, like Pan Am Tower, and prepare the site for a three-year buildout.
“Over the past decades, the Indiana Convention Center has hosted some of the most iconic large events in Indiana and America, while generating billions of dollars in economic impact and supporting a hospitality and service sector with over 80,000 jobs,” Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said in written remarks. “This latest expansion and hotel addition will keep Indianapolis at the top of everyone’s list when it comes to the perfect host venue—and city.”
Hogsett spoke during the event, as did City-County Council President Vop Osili, Capital Improvement Board of Managers Executive Director Andy Mallon and Visit Indy CEO Leonard Hoops. More than a dozen leaders of major conventions that hold their events in Indianapolis attended the event.
The expansion—the first since 2011, when the JW Marriott was built—is necessary to make Indianapolis more competitive with other major convention cities, in addition to being needed to help the city hang on to existing events, city and tourism officials have said.
The city of Indianapolis announced earlier this year that it plans to finance the project itself through municipal hotel revenue bonds, after longtime partner and Indianapolis-based developer Kite Realty Group Trust—selected by the CIB to marshal the project in 2018—determined it could not secure financing on the private market at reasonable enough interest rates.
The Indianapolis City-County Council in June voted to permit the city to take out up to $625 million in bonds for the project, leveraged against revenue generated by the property, instead of existing or new tax revenue. The figure accounts for financing costs as well as multiple reserve accounts in the event of a shortfall.
Kite remains involved in the project as a development partner, but will not have an ownership stake once the project is completed. The general contractor is AECOM Hunt and Ratio Design is the architect.
More than 2,500 construction workers are expected to be involved in the project by the time it’s completed.