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Meet me in Indiana: a survey of Indiana's major public convention facilities.

For more than a decade, Indiana's reputation has been growing steadily in the nation's convention market. Centrally located, the state is within a day's drive of more than 21 percent of the nation's population, making it a prime choice for corporate, religious and organizational gatherings.

Following are descriptions of some of Indiana's major, publicly owned convention facilities:

The Genesis Convention Center (219/882-5505) in Gary has facilities for small conferences and seminars to large trade shows and entertainment events. With 70,000 square feet available, the center is capable of holding a banquet for 3,000 people and meetings for 8,000. There are 11 break-out rooms seating from 10 to 1,000.

The 9,600-square-foot Indiana Hall exhibit area is equipped with its own sound and light system. The 30,000-square-foot arena is a versatile area that can be used for trade shows and exhibits, concerts, circuses and basketball games. In addition to audio-visual technical assistance, other support services include printing, drayage, security and secretarial services.

The Genesis Center recently added a kitchen, making available catering services that have doubled the number of events held at the facility. During 1992, the center hosted more than 800 events.

A Sheraton Hotel adjoins the facility, and surrounding Lake County is full of additional hotel space to accommodate convention visitors, with available rooms totaling more than 2,400. Among them is the 347-room Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza in Merrillville, which boasts more than 30,000 square feet of its own meeting space as well as the adjacent Star Plaza Theatre, which regularly books national acts. Other nearby choices include a Carlton Lodge, a Lees Inn, a Quality Inn and a Red Roof Inn.

The Porter County Expo Center in Valparaiso (219/464-0133) is a multipurpose facility, capable of hosting a wide variety of events such as conventions, trade shows, business meetings and seminars.

A total of 25,000 square feet of exhibit space is available, including seating for 750 in the main exhibition area. Banquet seating is available for groups ranging from 50 to 750, and there is room for 160 exhibitors' booths. Outdoor space includes the fairgrounds, bandstand and open-air barns.

Audio-visual equipment, exhibitor booths, portable stage and dance floors, and special lighting and sound systems are available. Catering is provided and menu choices include family-style dinners, buffets, luncheons and breakfasts. Hotel space in the vicinity includes the Carlton Lodge and Bridge View Inn in Valparaiso, the Indian Oak Inn in Chesterton and the Spring House Inn in Porter.

The Century Center (219/284-9711), South Bend's convention and cultural center, recently celebrated its 15th anniversary. Major renovations and remodeling changes took place during the year prior to the fall anniversary celebration, including the addition of Convention Hall C. This 12,000-square-foot space was opened in July of 1992, bringing the total exhibit space to 54,000. Larger overhead doorways were among the refurbishing projects that allowed the Century Center to host an indoor display of manufactured homes.

In addition to three exhibit halls, there are 11 meeting rooms seating from 15 to 350 and two theaters--the Recital Hall with 166 fixed seats and the Bendix Theatre with 718 seats. There also is an art center with two exhibit galleries, a rental gallery, classrooms, studios and a gift shop.

Stage lighting, big-screen TVs, outdoor concert systems, and videotaping and production are just a few of the services offered. Catering for breakfast, lunch or dinner is provided for up to 3,000 guests. The newest attraction at the Century Center--The College Football Hall of Fame sponsored by the National Football Foundation and the city of South Bend--will open in September 1994.

A skywalk connects the facility to the 300-room Marriott Hotel, and there is a Holiday Inn with 177 rooms a block and a half away. Some of the other hotel rooms in the area, which total about 2,700, may be found at Ramada Inn South Bend, a Residence Inn by Marriott, another Holiday Inn, a Howard Johnson Motor Lodge, a Signature Inn, and the Inn at St. Mary's.

Fort Wayne--Indiana's second largest city--has two major convention facilities. The Allen County War Memorial Coliseum & Exposition Center (219/482-9502) includes the Coliseum Arena, which provides seating for 10,000. The permanent ice floor has been the site for leading ice reviews and Olympic skating, and is the home ice for the International Hockey League's Fort Wayne Komets.

The adjoining Exposition Center covers 108,000 square feet and can be rented in its entirety or by increments of one-third. There is also a 44,000-square-foot Exhibition Hall, which can accommodate up to 7,800 people theater-style or 5,000 banquet-style. This room also can be divided into three smaller rooms. In addition, there are five private meeting rooms that can serve up to 200 people for banquets and receptions. Audio-visual technicians provide assistance for a wide range of technical equipment.

The most recent expansion to this facility is the 6,000-seat Memorial Stadium, which will be the home of the Midwest's newest professional baseball team--the minor-league Fort Wayne Twins. Opening day is scheduled for April.

The Grand Wayne Center (219/426-4100) has two exhibition halls, two ballrooms, an executive boardroom, two glass-lined galleries and a number of meeting rooms. Accommodations can be met for groups of 18 to approximately 4,800.

The Anthony Wayne Exhibit Hall provides 25,000 feet of columnless space, or can be divided into sections of 16,000 and 9,000 square feet. The 6,250-square-foot John Whistler Ballroom can be divided into four sections, both having special lighting and sound systems. In-house technical directors provide the necessary assistance for this equipment, as well as for a wide variety of audio-visual equipment, electrical, engineering and lighting services. Skywalks connect the facility to parking and the Embassy Theatre.

In the Fort Wayne area are some 3,500 hotel rooms, at properties including two Hilton inns, a Carlton Lodge, Don Hall's Guesthouse, two Holiday Inns, a Marriott, a Ramada Inn, a Red Roof Inn, a Residence Inn and a Signature Inn.

In Muncie, the Horizon Convention Center (317/288-8860) has facilities to meet the needs of a board meeting with only six attendees to a banquet for more than 600 or a seminar for 800.

The Interurban Exhibit Hall, located on the main level, has 7,788 square feet of space, which can accommodate larger groups or be divided to form smaller meeting areas. On the lower level, the Hackley Reserve meeting room offers room for a banquet of 140 people or a business meeting of up to 300.

The Trenton Conference Area, also on the lower level, provides meeting space for 20 to 60 people. The Boardroom on the second floor can easily accommodate 20 people for smaller meetings.

Advanced projection, sound and video equipment is available, and a fully equipped kitchen and in-house staff attend to the catering needs. An indoor receiving dock, with an 8-by-12 foot freight elevator, eases the loading and unloading of sizeable equipment and materials.

The Horizon Center, which was once Muncie's Federal Building, plans to break ground in the spring on a 110,000-square-foot expansion to the facility. This will include a 24,000-square-foot exhibit hall, additional meeting rooms and a new Children's Museum. The Muncie area features nearly 1,100 hotel rooms, with properties including a Holiday Inn, a Signature Inn and the famous Hotel Roberts.

The Hulman Center in Terre Haute (812/237-3770) is an auxiliary enterprise of Indiana State University. This 19-year-old multipurpose center is the home basketball facility for Indiana State men's and women's basketball programs.

In addition to sports attractions, a wide variety of events can be held in the building, including concerts. Four configurations make the space versatile for a number of events seating from 2,600 theater-style, which works well for large lectures and addresses, up to 11,000 concert style.

The 20,000-square-foot main floor exhibition space has been the site of Terre Haute's annual Chamber of Commerce dinner, seating 1,200 easily. The 12,000-square-foot outer concourse provides additional space suitable for smaller trade shows.

A meeting room complex in the lower level can be subdivided into five break-out rooms. Used in its entirety, it can hold 600 people theater-style, 300 in a classroom configuration and 325 for banquets. The complex can be sized down to a boardroom seating 15.

The university's A/V center and the closed-circuit TV department serve the technical needs of conferees. Catering services are available, with a variety of menu choices including French cuisine, basic Italian meals and country-fried steak.

There are approximately 2,000 nearby rooms in hotels, motels and inns, including a Holiday Inn, a Signature Inn, a Best Western and Larry Bird's Boston Connection.

The city of Indianapolis has grown in recognition to being one of the top convention cities in the United States. Ranking 31st in 1991, convention bookings by the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association numbered 222-plus in 1991, a 416 percent increase since 1984, when the Indiana Convention Center & Hoosier Dome first expanded. That number doesn't include trade shows and conventions booked by the hotels and other meeting facilities in the city.

The Indiana Convention Center & Hoosier Dome (317/262-3410) has been the site for a variety of events including a convention of Hardware Wholesalers, numerous NFL Indianapolis Colts football games, rock concerts and a Communion service for the Church of the Nazarene.

The center opened in 1972, and the Hoosier Dome and two exhibition halls were added in 1984. A $43 million project is now under way and scheduled for completion by the summer. In addition to renovating existing facilities, the facility is expanding to include:

* a 36,000-square-foot multipurpose room (larger than a football field) that can be divided into seven rooms. This room will accommodate 2,400 people for a meal function or 4,000 for a general assembly.

* 22,050 square feet of flexible meeting space. The first floor, with a total of 18,000 square feet, can be divided into 10 meeting rooms.

* two skywalks linking the center with the Westin Hotel Indianapolis and the Hyatt Regency Indianapolis.

* a new lobby and registration area that will be centrally located between the new main entrance on the north side and the new meeting rooms.

* 18,300 square feet of pre-function space, overlooking downtown Indianapolis and accommodating up to 2,400 people.

The dome floor alone provides 95,000 square feet of space, with seating of up to 60,500 spectators. There are 60 meeting rooms, including three ballrooms and show offices, which can accommodate from 10 to 700 people.

The Indiana Convention Center has a full-service kitchen and full-time executive chef. Dining services include banquet, buffet, cafeteria or concession. The convention center also provides technical assistance for audio-visual equipment, as well as electrical and carpentry services and a full-time security staff with closed-circuit TV and computerized fire-detection equipment.

North of downtown is the Indiana State Fairgrounds (317/927-7524), with more than one million square feet of meeting area. It has hosted a variety of events such as antique and craft shows, the Indianapolis Boat, Sport and Travel Show, and numerous trade shows, and it also is the home of the IHL Indianapolis Ice hockey team.

The Fairgrounds celebrated its centennial in 1992. Facilities range from approximately 8,000 square feet to 171,000 square feet. The Home & Family Arts Building can be divided into 16 classrooms or seminar rooms seating 20 to 200. With more than 90,000 square feet, the building can be utilized for numerous events and exhibitions.

The Lincoln Theatre provides auditorium seating for 750, a 56-by-20-foot stage and wall display space. The Exposition Hall offers 82,800 square feet of year-round exhibit space.

The Fairgrounds also offers catering for everything from outdoor barbecue fixings to filet mignon and champagne. Parking attendants, 24-hour security, electricians and sound technicians also are available.

The Indianapolis area includes more than 15,500 hotel rooms, with some of the properties major convention hotels themselves. Examples include the downtown Westin Hotel, with a pair of ballrooms and more than a dozen smaller meeting rooms; the downtown Hyatt Regency, with nine large halls and 20 smaller meeting rooms; and the University Place Conference Center & Hotel, with 30 permanent, sound-proof meeting rooms and some of the most sophisticated support equipment around, including satellite videoconferencing capabilities, translation booths and a television studio.

Other area convention hotels include the Holiday Inn Airport, the Radisson Hotel & Suite Hotel at Keystone at the Crossing, the Embassy Suites Hotel and Indiana Roof Ballroom downtown, the Omni Indianapolis North Hotel, the Adam's Mark near the airport, and the Indianapolis Marriott on the east side of town, which recently instituted the chain's Express Check-in program that allows most credit-paying guests to bypass the front desk on their way in. Downtown convention-goers interested in some of the area's most luxurious accommodations may want to check into the Canterbury Hotel, located near the Indiana Convention Center and downtown shopping.

Just a little more than a year old is the Convention Center of Monroe County/Bloomington (812/336-368). This 40,000-square-foot facility has 17,000 square feet of meeting space and can accommodate groups of up to 1,000.

The facility underwent a $2.5 million refurbishing project, which included an access ramp and reinforced floors allowing access for automobile and boat trade shows. Located in the former Tom O'Daniel Ford showroom in downtown Bloomington, there are eight private meeting rooms, each uniquely decorated. A 12,000-square-foot banquet room comfortably seats 1,000. An on-site professional caterer handles all food events from hor d'oeuvres to elegant dinners. An adjacent parking facility has space for 350 cars.

Basic A/V equipment is available, as well as large-screen computer graphics, multi-image processing and audio duplication.

More than two dozen motels, hotels and inns have more than 1,700 rooms and suites. Choices include a Holiday Inn, a Hampton Inn, the Indiana Memorial Union on the Indiana University campus, and The Pointe and Fourwinds Resort on nearby Lake Monroe.

Roberts Municipal Stadium in Evansville (812/476-1383) utilizes its 14,000 square feet of indoor arena floor for convention and meeting space. About 1,000 people can be seated banquet-style and served by the stadium's catering service, or the arena floor can be set up with about 100 8-by-10-foot booths. The area can be divided into two separate rooms, each capable of handling 400 theater-style. The arena itself seats 13,600 people.

Eight dressing rooms and a press room can serve as break-out space for groups of 15 to 30, and a 30-foot-wide concourse wrapping around the arena is available for smaller trade shows. The load-in area is nearly as big as the arena floor and also has been used for trade shows. Built in 1956, the facility underwent a $17 million renovation in 1990, which provided state-of-the-art acoustics. Audio-visual and technical services are available.

Also in Evansville is the Vanderburgh Auditorium Convention Center (812/426-2270), a unique combination of meeting space. The auditorium is a 2,001-seat theater with a 100-foot-wide-by-45-foot-deep stage, five star dressing rooms and two chorus dressing rooms. It facilitates theater performances, concerts, lectures and teleconferences. State-of-the-art sound and lighting equipment is available, and technical assistance is provided by the establishment.

The 12,700-square-foot, fan-shaped Gold Room when used as a banquet hall seats 1,000 guests. The room is also adaptable to other uses including exhibitions and trade shows. Audiovisual equipment is available and meetings can be recorded through the in-house sound system. Five other meeting rooms are available.

Guests in Evansville will find nearly 2,500 area hotel rooms, with choices including the Executive Inn, two Holiday Inns, a Lees Inn, a Radisson Inn, a Ramada Inn and a Signature Inn.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Curtis Magazine Group, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Prata, Kathleen
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Date:Feb 1, 1993
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