NRA Annual Meetings: The Case for More Hotel Space
INDIANAPOLIS--The National Rifle Assoc. Annual Meetings that start in one week are an example of why Indianapolis needs more motel and hotel space downtown, said Chris Gahl, senior vice president of Visit Indy, the organization responsible for conventions downtown.
"This is truly a city-wide convention that is monopolizing every single square inch of the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium, a virtual sellout of the downtown hotels," said Gahl.
He said the NRA is one of many conventions asking for more hotel space. Gahl said the NRA will be back in 2023, but they are outgrowing downtown Indianapolis, at its current capacity.
"We're happy that we're a drivable city, that we're able to get people seamlessly in and out of the Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium. However, it's again one of many annual conventions, one of many big conventions, that are asking us to expand."
A new 38-story Hilton Signia hotel, along with a second hotel and ballroom are planned, with some of the funding potentially being supported by the state legislature.
The owner of the J.W. Marriott, White Lodging Services, and its representative, Dave Sibley, said Indianapolis and the state cannot justify adding more hotel rooms.
"We think there's way too many hotel rooms to begin with," said Sibley, to Inside Indiana Business in March. "If you look from 2012 to 2018, there was 5.5 percent growth in the market. So we added 364 rooms downtown. We're now talking, in the next six years, of adding 2,741 rooms, or about the size of three J.W.s. We don't think that that's something that we can do in that short period of time."
Gahl said a third-party study proves that more space is needed. He said even without the study, the number of conventions asking for more space makes it obvious.
"While we have them (NRA) for 2019 and again for 2023, they've already expressed interest in rebooking Indianapolis into the future, with the caveat that we continue to grow as a city," said Gahl. "The NRA is one of many conventions that is expressing the dire need to expand and add more hotel rooms."
He said the FDIC (Fire Dept. Instructors Convention), which just finished up, has also asked for Indy to expand and provide more rooms.
"We're not politically-motivated. We're not trying to force any development. We firmly believe, based on third-party research, there are many conventions, including the NRA, including the NCAA, including GenCon and the Fire Dept. Instructors Conference, that need more space," said Gahl.
He said motels are booked well beyond downtown, and as far away as Bloomington and Lafayette.
PHOTO: Provided by Hilton