INDIANAPOLIS — For 10 years the Performance Racing Industry trade show has been packing the Indiana Convention Center every December, bringing an estimated 50,000 participants to town once again this month and leaving behind an anticipated $70 million economic impact, and this year it’s bursting the city’s convention site at the seams.

“We spill into Lucas Oil Stadium as well and will fill that with our truck and trailer display,” said PRI President Dr. Jamie Meyer. ”The infrastructure here in Indianapolis is great. We’re growing every year. We’re actually up over 10 percent from an exhibitor’s standpoint so we’re gonna push the limits of what we can do here in the convention center and Lucas Oil Stadium. The expansion of Indianapolis is really interesting to us and it’ll keep PRI coming back for many years.”

PRI and other big events have signed long-term contracts to return to Indianapolis based on the city’s promise to expand its convention center across Capitol Avenue onto Pan Am Plaza and be joined there by a pair of Hilton Hotels to be constructed by Kite Realty.

“It’s the events like FFA where they were almost at near record-breaking attendance figures. They’re using all the space. Currently, PRI, Performance Racing Industry, is using all the space, so, we’re trying to figure out how we continue to grow with those key groups,” said Patrick Tamm, President & CEO of the Indiana Lodging and Restaurant Association, “so we look at this Pan Am Plaza project and effort as another key item.”

In 2020, in the midst of the pandemic shutdown when the travel and tourist industry was in a slump, the City of Indianapolis and KRG committed to a $550 million plan to bring to fruition the long-anticipated Pan Am Plaza project.

The City and its partners are ready, but apparently the financing market is not.

”Will the finance markets be ready, willing and able to build a large convention hotel?” asked Tamm. ”Once we do get those financial markets comfortable with this type of a convention hotel expansion, Indianapolis does tell a different story than the rest of the country. We do have the data. We do have groups like PRI right now at record levels as well that we continue to buck that trend in that convention and group business.”

Tamm notes that other cities continue moving ahead, such as in Nashville where a new football stadium has been proposed, in an attempt to steal some of Indianapolis’ lucrative convention and event business.

Meyer said PRI is often approached about moving its trade show to another city.

”Indianapolis is great for this trade show. We have the hotels that work with us closely, the restaurant industry as well,” he said. “Certainly we could use more hotel space. I get calls every year this time of year people try to find the hotel rooms that are connected, so that’s really interesting to our crowd, but more convention center space is certainly gonna pay off for PRI and other trade shows like us.”

Meyer said PRI is committed to return to Indianapolis for six more years.

Due to inflation and the rising cost to borrow money in the two years since the Pan Am Plaza project was approved, the City has been forced to refigure its $155 million commitment to the plan.

Wednesday afternoon the Metropolitan Development Commission will consider tapping $25 million in Tax Increment Financing funds to augment the City’s original investment.

If approved, the hike would still need City-County Council approval with completion of the construction still at least two years off.

“The Signia Hotel and 6th expansion of the Indiana Convention Center is a once-in-a-generation opportunity. Tomorrow, the Metropolitan Development Commission will consider a $25 million resolution, which will reinforce the City’s support for the project and get us closer to the finish line. This continued backing will help further accelerate the local tourism and convention business, which currently supports nearly 20,000 jobs for residents and remains a fundamental pillar of the Indianapolis economy.”

A spokesperson for the City of Indianapolis

“Tomorrow’s vote on the amended resolution for the phase six expansion is yet another indication of the Mayor’s and the City’s commitment to growing the Indiana Convention Center’s ability to host citywide conventions and world-class sporting events. Indianapolis has consistently shown its willingness to invest in the future of our downtown area and the county as a whole, even when economic conditions prevent other cities from moving forward.”

Andy Mallon, Executive Director, Capital Improvement Board: