INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– Signage and banners are going up around the Indiana Convention Center as the city prepares to host the 148th Annual Meeting of the National Rifle Association (NRA).
Officials expect 75,000 attendees to pass through the turnstiles of the 4-day event leaving behind an economic impact estimated at $35 million.
“We had our Harvard economist do a real healthy look at very conservatively how are we estimating economic impact,” said Chris Gahl, Senior Vice President of Visit Indy. “And so we’ve seen a decrease in all of our top ten conventions in terms of the economic impact based solely on a refinement to the way we calculate.”
The last time the NRA was in town in 2014, the estimated economic impact was $55 million.
The NRA will be the fifth largest convention to visit Indianapolis in 2019.
“Every square inch of the Indiana Convention Center will be utilized for the NRA show in addition to the entire building at Lucas Oil Stadium, every hotel downtown, every hotel room all the way out north to Lafayette and south to Bloomington,” said Gahl. “And we’ve heard from the very top of the NRA and the NRA’s brass that the walkability of the city and the fact that we have more hotel rooms connected into the convention center is a key selling point.”
Indy spent nearly eight years selling the NRA on coming to the city as then-Governor Mitch Daniels played a key role in wooing the organization.
While he was at the statehouse, former Governor Mike Pence helped persuade the NRA to return this year and for an unprecedented third conference in 2023.
Pence and President Trump will address the NRA’s membership Friday inside Lucas Oil Stadium following up the president’s last appearance in Indianapolis before the FFA during its annual convention last year.
“No matter how you believe in your politics, the fact that a sitting president has been to your city twice in so many months speaks to caliber of conventions you are holding and speaks to the meaningfulness of the business being done within the city and to the complexity of pulling off the convention with the convention organizers,” said Gahl.
The convention bills itself as, “15 Acres of Guns & Gear,” with more than 800 exhibitors.
The conference, its break sessions and access to the exhibit hall are open to NRA members who may renew their annual membership on site.
Seminars on home self-defense, WW II weaponry, legal and political strategies and competition shooting are open to members.
Hudnut Commons, across Maryland Street from the convention center, will be the designated Free Speech Zone where 2nd Amendment Supporters and demonstrators calling for tougher legislation and an end to gun violence will be expected to air their divergent views.
“We also realize and recognize that there are citizens of Indianapolis and of central Indiana that don’t agree with the city hosting this convention,” said Gahl. “We say to them that, ‘Indy welcomes all.’”
The NRA conference is one of three conventions this year that will permit attendees to legally carry firearms on the premises.