City Spotlight: Indianapolis, Indiana

|The Central Canal
While Indiana’s capital may still be feeling blue (as in the color of the Indianapolis Colts) after losing iconic NFL quarterback Peyton Manning, its high-profile success hosting the 2012 Super Bowl should nonetheless provide considerable consolation for the country’s 12th-largest city. In the run-up to that celebration, millions of viewers, more than a few planners among them, witnessed firsthand the results of Indianapolis’ recent $3 billion revitalization and transformation into a major player in the meetings market. BIG CHANGES A good starting point, especially for association groups, is the city’s reinvigorated downtown core and the sparkling new look and feel of the Indiana Convention Center. Past attendees might be forgiven for not recognizing the latter, thanks to a $275 million expansion and renovation project completed a little more than a year ago. The math now works in a major group way, as the ICC’s reconfiguration delivers 566,300 square feet of contiguous exhibit space and 83 meeting rooms, including the new Sagamore Ballroom, which, at 33,000 square feet, is the Midwest’s largest. HOUSING BOOM Indy’s top-tier credentials also extend to its accommodations, which have increased to some 32,000 rooms citywide. Planners should be pleased in particular by both the cluster of 7,100 downtown rooms, including 4,700 rooms attached by skywalk to the convention center via the Omni, Westin, Hyatt, Conrad, Canterbury, Crowne Plaza, Embassy Suites and Marriott hotels. The new JW Marriott (pictured), which opened last year, has 1,005 rooms alone. Come January of next year, the city will add another new property, the 209-room Alexander Hotel, with spectacular artwork commissioned by the Indianapolis Museum of Art. OUT AND ABOUT Group activities abound and, better yet, often lie close by the meeting rooms. Need an elegant, fun option for a special event or spousal tour? Try the always-edgy Indiana State Museum (pictured), just a short walk from downtown and the convention center. Looking to shop, sip good wine and take in some fine dining? Downtown Indianapolis and its shops and restaurants are more accessible than ever, now that a healthy chunk of Georgia Street has been closed to auto traffic, part of an inner-city renovation that includes a permanent, pedestrian promenade connecting Bankers Life Fieldhouse (home of the NBA’s Pacers and WNBA’s Fever) to the convention center. STADIUM SEATING Football aside, Lucas Oil Stadium provides an exciting venue for teambuilding, trade shows and meetings, with 750,000 square feet of flexible meeting and exhibit space. And for college sports fans, Indianapolis is home to the NCAA National Headquarters and its popular Hall of Champions. With the hall already serving as a ready-made theme party venue, the NCAA will be giving groups even more options for events come June when it opens a new 16,000-sq.-ft. conference center overlooking the urban green space of White River State Park. No trip to Indianapolis would be complete, though, without a visit to the Indianapolis Raceway, home to the famed Indy 500 and some great VIP venues. A must for the visiting association board members: stopping at the track and stooping to kiss the bricks. Photos courtesy of Indianpolis CVA and Marriott Hotels