I spent some time in Indianapolis, one of the largest convention cities in the USA. I was genuinely surprised by how this city has evolved through events and anticipate an incredible MPI World Education Congress for those attending.
OK, I admit it. The fact they were shooting American Ninja Warrior was my main driver. Truth is that by the end of the few days I spent in Indy, I did not really care about ANW as much. I had just discovered an incredible city with a true love for events.
As an event geek, what I love to see is when a city gets together and understands the power of events. Indianapolis has been able to grow, change and transform thanks to those people forward thinking enough to invest to make it become a top convention city in the Midwest.
In 2012, for example, 46 murals were commissioned to celebrate SuperBowl XLVI (or 46) coming to town. You can see them around the city, celebrating a special moment for the community and delivering its legacy to future generations.
Some destinations seem to view events as a nuisance rather than an opportunity. The feeling walking along the Indy canals (and spotting the occasional gondola) is that the legacy from past events has redefined the downtown area.
This is a city that celebrates when an event is in town. The Indianapolis 500, the event that floods the city each May, is a big deal. Locals love it. It is celebrated by hotels, with stunts like the mega logo on the JW Marriott.
‘Are you not concerned about the traffic?’. I asked my taxi driver. He said that yeah, it’s manic, but he understood the contribution that the event brought to the economy and how key it is to the growth of the community.
What About WEC 2018?
Many of you, dear readers, will attend MPI’s World Education Congress in a months time. I was shown some of the activities and locations set up for the event. Well, you are in for a great treat.
I love my city, Las Vegas, but it’s inevitable that a group the size of WEC, gets lost in a city like ours. Last year the EDM festival was happening during WEC. You inevitably lose a little bit of intimacy around here.
Indy is a walkable convention city that, while offering the comfort and infrastructure of a 1st tier destination, gives you the intimate environment of a 2nd tier destination. You will inevitably walk into fellow attendees during the event, connect around the city, bump into them in some of its historic restaurants.
Leonard Hoops, Visit Indy’s CEO, reaffirms this unique environment as the coronation of years of community effort:
“Indy is the number one ranked convention city in America according to USA Today. This well-earned ranking is the result of nearly five decades of urban planning that has seen Indy build a convention and event district with 12 hotels directly connected to its convention center and hundreds of restaurants, retailers, and attractions within the district. No other city in the country can match Indy’s convenient and connected package - and we deliver it all with Hoosier Hospitality.”
WEC 2018 is about the experience and all the mixers outside of the program will be unique experiences, specially the opening night celebration, A Party in The Park hosted by IEDC at The Farm Bureau Insurance Lawn in White River State Park and the Food Truck Networking Lunch by the Georgia Street Indy event promenade – adjacent to the Indiana Convention Center.
The event promenade is becoming quite a feature in Indy, thanks to its connected convention hotels. A few other modern cities are starting to offer such purpose-built spaces. Food trucks create that sense of a street party that inevitably brings downs defenses of a more formal environment, stimulating serendipitous networking.
What About Hosting Your Event in Indianapolis?
Indianapolis is quickly becoming a tech hub for many companies such as Salesforce and projects such as 16 Tech, a repurposed real estate project giving space to technology and creativity. The city feels fresh and vibrant. It is moving towards the future dynamically. The community cares about making things better and constantly improving the city.
Indy is a 1st tier destination city. The airport is modern, international and extremely well connected to the rest of the country and incredibly popular. It has in fact been awarded Best Airport in North America by Airports Council International (six years running), Best Overall Passenger Experience by J.D. Power and Associates, and Best Airport in America by Condé Nast Traveler the past three years.
Downtown is 15 minutes away. It is a very easy drive.
These two items alone should put Indy under your radar, but let’s also look at some of the facilities Indianapolis has to offer:
The Indiana Convention Center. This is by far one of the most connected convention centers out there. Hotels have easy walk bridges to the event space, making it incredibly simple to get to events.
These are some of the numbers of the convention center:
- 566,600 contiguous sq. ft. of exhibit space
- 71 meeting rooms
- 3 ballrooms, 33,335 sq. ft. largest
- 49 loading docks
- Connected to 12 hotels, a mall, and Lucas Oil Stadium
The Lucas Oil Stadium is another great space in the downtown area that gives you access to more meeting opportunities. Here are some numbers:
- 183,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space
- 63,000 permanent seats
- 2 exhibit halls
- 12 meeting rooms
- Retractable roof and windows with skyline view
Monument Circle: The Perfect (Ninja) Immersive Experience
One of the most incredible venues Indy has to offer is Monument Circle, the iconic circular street at the heart of downtown. If Indy is like a little Paris, its Tour Eiffel is the Indiana State Soldiers and Sailors Monument right in the middle of the Circle.
This is where I had the pleasure to witness the behind the scene of American Ninja Warrior. A monumental (no pun intended) effort for a TV show that looks like an event on tour. Hundreds of people setting up everything up for 5 days and then tearing it down in half a day.
You will witness very soon on TV how Indy shines during the night of the show (that runs from 8pm until 5am) with the tricky course circling around the monument and a whole city being excited for the show.
An incredible effort also when it gets to security. While details were not shared, the event was monitored every day for the whole day in conjunction with local authorities.
As unique venues are on the rise, here is your unique venue. WEC attendees will enjoy it for the Monumental Block Party on Sunday, June 3rd.
Give Your Attendees the Choice of 350 Nearby Restaurants
One of the most attractive features of Indianapolis is its growing food scene. You can tell there is a whole subculture developing that will inevitably entice your foodie attendees.
I had the chance to dine at the world famous St.Elmo, Indy’s most popular restaurant since 1902, featuring a notable shrimp cocktail named “The World’s Spiciest Dish” by the Travel Channel. I can comfortably say I had one of the best steaks of my life. While looking around, you could tell this was a preferred choice for groups, with many patrons wearing badges from nearby events.
Next door from St. Elmo, Spoke and Steele a completely refurbished restaurant with a great space for corporate events. Highlights were the Indy Car theme all around with lights borrowed from a sports car and the private aged cocktail cellar. Many local brands have their customized mix in a special barrel that can be poured to guests on special occasions. Another hit is the secluded speakeasy, very intimate and exclusive.
Another highlight was the Conner’s Kitchen Bar @ Marriott Downtown with an incredible local beer selection and a cornbread muffin to die for. Marriott is very present in the city with multiple properties, some recently renovated, that offer 2,276 rooms combined. Big props for the grab and go market in the hotel with affordable local produce, fruit, nuts, small meals. A crowd-pleasing for the expert traveler and the millennial that wants to avoid full restaurant prices.
Alternative Entertainment for Your Attendees
I had a blast going around the city with my new friend Joe from Active Indy Tours and his bike. Bike tours are pretty popular with attendees. Indy is a completely flat city. It was so easy to stroll around and I got to discover a lot about its culture and evolution over the past 20 years.
Incredible gems were the public library spots around the city, where you can just take a book and bring it back home for your enjoyment. No need to return it. Amazing.
The big star of the city if you are on a bike tour has got to be the 8 mile Cultural Trail. This is an incredible project based on a mix of public and private donations that connects districts and neighborhoods of the city. I was mesmerized by the ‘Chatham Passage’ a multi-sensory art installation consisting in an underground concrete scent vault releasing a perfume of rose. Wow.
Along the trail, you will find interesting and artsy installations such as the seats of a former stadium now comfortable chairs for those waiting for public transportation.
Or the history museum with a clock that goes back in time.
You can easily get lost in Indy and stumble upon incredible hidden gems such as the Lockerbie neighborhood made of beautiful period houses, completely restored and immaculately kept.
While strolling around I enjoyed a fantastic espresso before playing ping pong at Smash, a ping pong bar with some of the best beans and pong action ever. A fantastic break if you want to step up your networking during WEC.
If you are attending WEC in 2018, Indianapolis has an incredible set of surprises waiting for you. I really, really enjoyed being there. A sense of tranquility, peace in a vibrant downtown that is perfectly placed to host large groups and corporate events.
If you are looking at generous convention spaces in the Midwest, I cannot hesitate to recommend Indy. The team at Visit Indy will go above and beyond to make your event a success. They will help with venue connections, RFPs and all the information needed to make your event a hit.
I will keep an eye on Indianapolis. A city that loves events and with an incredible community dedicated to art, good food and the pleasure of meeting. Sounds good to me.