How Indianapolis and Fort Wayne Are Ramping Up for Meetings and Events in 2024
The Landing, Fort Wayne. Credit: Green Hat Biz, Visit Fort Wayne
Indiana is preparing for a blockbuster year ahead, and its two biggest cities are taking advantage of the momentum. See how Indianapolis and Fort Wayne are primed to host your meetings and events, and what to look forward to from both destinations in 2024.
With a total of 4,700 hotel rooms connected to the Indiana Convention Center (ICC) (and more on the way!), Indianapolis offers more accommodations connected to its convention center than any other city in the country, according to Visit Indy, but its meetings and events offerings yet to debut make Indiana’s capital city even more enticing.
Indianapolis is investing billions of dollars into its tourism infrastructure, undergoing its sixth convention center expansion and breaking ground on a new Signia by Hilton convention center hotel in preparation for an events-packed 2024 calendar year.
“Indy is an ascending city, and people are picking up on that,” said Morgan Snyder, senior director of public relations and film at Visit Indy. “We’ve been the No. 1 convention city in America, according to USA Today, so our convention package is strong and well-known. But as a whole, Indy is really skyrocketing, and $1.7 billion in new tourism infrastructure will continue to catapult Indianapolis into a new category as a destination.”
On August 1, Indianapolis broke ground on a 40-story, 800-room Signia by Hilton convention headquarter hotel and the sixth expansion to the ICC. The $710 million project—$200 million for the ICC and $510 million for the hotel—will include a ground-floor restaurant, outdoor cafe space, rooftop bar and lounge and an outdoor swimming pool. The project will also bring a skywalk over Capitol Avenue connecting the existing convention center to the expansion and bringing the total number of hotel rooms all under one roof and directly connected to the ICC to 5,500 via 13 properties.
Between meeting space at the new Signia by Hilton and the ICC expansion, the city will add a total of 143,500 square feet of meetings and events space, including a 50,000-square-foot ballroom, a junior ballroom, prefunction space and meeting rooms. The new ballroom will become one of the top 10 convention center ballrooms by size in the U.S. upon its completion set for summer 2026.
“The convention center expansion and addition of the 800-room Signia by Hilton hotel is a direct effect of hearing from meeting planners that they want and need more space in Indianapolis,” Snyder said. “Our occupancy numbers show that we have space and demand for another large hotel, and with Indy in that position as an ascending city, it marries well with everything else that is growing, expanding and opening in Indianapolis.”
One such development is the Intercontinental Hotel, set to open in the former Illinois Building on West Market Street in summer 2024 within steps from Indy’s Monument Circle, the epicenter of its downtown area.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum will also be closed for a year for an $89 million renovation, reimagining the Museum into a state-of-the-art, high-tech attraction with unique, functional meeting space for those interested in convening inside the iconic oval of the “Racing Capital of the World.”
The recently opened $30 million Bicentennial Unity Plaza commemorates 200 years of Indy’s history and provides a new outdoor gathering space connected to Gainbridge Fieldhouse, home of Indianapolis’ NBA Pacers and WNBA Fever, and a popular venue for concerts. The plaza features a covered basketball court that will be converted into a seasonal ice rink and open spaces for private events year-round.
“And Indy is using our lineup of 2024 events as an opportunity to showcase what we can do as a meeting destination,” Snyder added. “We will be bringing in meeting planners that are considering Indianapolis for their convention, showing them around and saying, ‘Hey, if we can host the world’s largest single-day sporting event with 300,000 people from around the world, we can host your convention.’”
Next year’s lineup of events includes an NBA All-Star Game in February, the first and second rounds of NCAA March Madness, the Indianapolis 500 in May and three back-to-back-to-back Taylor Swift concerts in November, as well as the National Eucharistic Congress in July. The event will be the first time the pilgrimage for Catholics will take place in the U.S. since the 1970s and is anticipated to draw 100,000 people to the city.
“This lineup of blockbuster events really showcases how Indianapolis as a city was deliberately designed to host large-scale events—events as small as 20 people all the way up to thousands,” Snyder said. “2024 is a perfect opportunity for us to put Indy on the national stage for meeting planners.”
Proudly situated in the heart of the Midwest is Indiana’s second-largest city, Fort Wayne. The destination is home to Fort Wayne International Airport, offering non-stop flights from more than 10 destinations and over 350 connections worldwide, as well as two world-class meeting facilities, Grand Wayne Convention Center and Allen County War Memorial Coliseum.
“The downtown convention package is connected, convenient and affordable,” said Emily Hill, marketing and communications coordinator at Visit Fort Wayne. “When attendees step out of the Grand Wayne Convention Center in downtown Fort Wayne, they are within feet of the Botanical Conservatory, the historic Embassy Theatre and Parkview Field [home to the Fort Wayne TinCaps minor league baseball team], as well as more than 50 walkable restaurants to choose from.”
And the city now has even more to offer.
“New to the meetings scene in Fort Wayne is The Bradley Hotel, co-founded and designed by Barbara Bradley Baekgaard, co-founder of Vera Bradley Designs,” Hill said. “The luxury hotel is designed with a focus on Midwestern charm and sophisticated elegance, from their three sunlit meeting spaces to their 124 rooms. Birdies Rooftop, perched atop the hotel, offers nightlife with a light studded view of the downtown skyline.”
The Bradley boasts three event spaces ranging from 450 to over 1,000 square feet. The Allen room, named after the county Fort Wayne is a part of, is the largest of the three and features floor-to-ceiling windows and outdoor access for up to 100 guests for a reception.
Across from The Bradley is The Landing, a walkable pedestrian corridor that’s continuously developing on the most historic street in Fort Wayne.
“Where canal boats once landed, you’ll now find dining, shopping and meeting space in what was once the first post office and papermill,” Hill said. “Three new restaurants are expected to open later this year on The Landing as development and renovations continue to take place.”
Relatively new to the Fort Wayne riverfront is Promenade Park, which opened in 2019 near the confluence of Fort Wayne’s three rivers and revitalized the city’s urban outdoor scene. Riverfront Fort Wayne is preparing for its next phase of development, bringing more commercial space, retail and restaurants while enhancing the city’s outdoor offerings.
On the edge of downtown Fort Wayne sits Electric Works, home to meeting space with a modern industrial design on a historical city site. The venue is in the revitalized General Electric campus, an innovative industrial epicenter built in 1883 and home to the region’s only food hall. Now the 39 acres, 18 buildings and more than 1.2 million square feet of space in the heart of Fort Wayne are being revitalized phase by phase.
“Fort Wayne continues to have a focus on affordability, walkability and a high-end local dining scene to make up the complete convention package, elevating attendee experience as well as planner needs,” Hill said.
[Related: 3 Indiana Cities Offering Imaginative Venues]
Indy’s White River Rehabilitation and Revitalization
For the past decade, Indianapolis has been working underground (literally) to rehabilitate the city’s waterways, and for the first time in more than 10 years, the White River, which runs through the heart of Indianapolis, is at recreationally clean levels.
“For the first time, visitors and residents are able to engage with the water in downtown Indianapolis,” said Morgan Snyder, senior director of public relations and film at Visit Indy. “There’s this element that I think convention attendees are always looking for which is those after-5 p.m. components, and Indy is really excelling and enhancing that after-5 product. The river is a huge component of that.”
The recently opened Frank’s Paddlesports Livery is the city’s leading provider of canoe, kayak and stand-up paddleboard rentals on the White River and offers opportunities for groups to hire a guide for tailored experiences at www.frankslivery.com.
“Hone in on the river part that’s right around the Indiana Convention Center, and all of a sudden, there’s a whole other amenity that’s available to convention attendees,” Snyder said. “It’s another untold story, and it will be a huge part of Indy’s DNA in the next decade that continues to roll out.”
Visit Fort Wayne
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