Indianapolis lands major convention for people who make decisions about conventions

A consortium of trade group and association executives who have a major influence on where conventions take place has selected Indianapolis to host its 2026 annual meeting.

The American Society of Association Executives announced Thursday that it expects to draw more than 6,000 people to Indianapolis for its four-day conference in August 2026, leading to a projected economic impact of about $16 million. Indianapolis was one of six cities awarded an ASAE convention from 2022 and 2027.

The group’s Annual Meeting & Exposition is expected to put Indianapolis under a microscope of convention attendees—many of whom will be key decision-makers for their respective associations. ASAE estimates about 20% of the delegates will book events in Indianapolis and other host cities within five years of attending an ASAE conference.

“This is our host cities’ chance to shine in front of an audience of association professionals that determine future meeting sites for their organizations,” said Susan Robertson, interim president and CEO for ASAE, in written remarks.

“Once onsite, attendees will be acutely aware of everything related to the hospitality, convention facilities, hotels, restaurants, and entertainment as well as overall experience,” she said. “If impressed, they will strongly consider bringing their own association meetings to these cities.”

Nashville, Tennessee, was awarded the 2022 event, followed by Atlanta, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Indianapolis and Charlotte, North Carolina.

“This is a unique opportunity to show off Indianapolis as a host city to a very influential group of people, with the power … to pick where their own associations will meet in the future,” said Chris Gahl, vice president of Visit Indy.

Gahl said Visit Indy highlighted the planned expansion of the Indiana Convention Center as a key selling point in its final pitch, which came in a 90-minute presentation at ASAE’s Washington, D.C., headquarters last week.

The convention center expansion will add at least 80,000 square feet of space to the convention center and upwards of 1,400 rooms to the downtown hotel market. While details for the project have not yet been finalized—the city and representatives of project developer Kite Realty Group are still working on a project agreement—construction on at least the first phase is expected to wrap by the end of 2024, Gahl said.

The pitch team was comprised of five officials from Visit Indy—Gahl, CEO Leonard Hoops and sales executives Darren Kingi, Dawna Money and Joyce Russell. Capital Improvement Board Executive Director Andy Mallon and board member Sarah Fisher also took part.

Indianapolis had previously, and unsuccessfully, bid to host the conference in 2002, 2011, 2016 and 2021.

A formal contract between ASAE and Visit Indy has not yet been signed, but Gahl said he expects that will occur in the next few months. 

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4 thoughts on “Indianapolis lands major convention for people who make decisions about conventions

  1. Wow. Crawl back under your rock, Murray. This industry brings hundreds of millions of dollars annually to Indy, for a fraction of that investment. Indy is growing and thriving, and convention business is a big part of what’s driving that growth. You know how many people visit Indy every year? Close to 20 million. The convention business has a disproportionately large role in that achievement. People like Murray R might be happier moving to a smaller and less ambitious city.

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