Opening of the congress center; Terre Haute & Vigo County make a statement | Local News

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Saturday’s opening of a new convention center in downtown Terre Haute is a statement, said Jon Marvel, chairman of the Vigo County Capital Improvement Board.

“It is a statement of the future, a statement of innovation and progressiveness where everyone comes together with one goal, and which gives Terre Haute, the County of Vigo and the Convention and Visitors Bureau opportunity to welcome people to our city,” he said.

“You’ve heard of Hoosier hospitality; I say we have Hautean hospitality,” Marvel said.

Terre Haute resident Jim Lantz walked through the main hall of the convention center during the grand opening.

“One good thing about the new convention center is its size. We haven’t had anything this big downtown since the Mayflower Hall,” said Lantz, 79. This room was located in the former Terre Haute House, which was on the current site of the Hilton Garden Inn, which is now connected to the convention center.

Lantz graduated from the old Garfield High School in 1961 and said he went to high school dances in the Mayflower Hall. He graduated from Indiana State University in 1966, then moved to work in Michigan. He returned to Terre Haute in 2010.

“This new convention center will bring money to the community, which is what we want,” Lantz said. “It’s a good thing. It’s a big step forward, I think, for the whole community,” Lantz said.

Carrol and Sandra Milligan, drove from Clinton to see the new convention center.

“It’s been very interesting and we’ve been following the progress as they build it,” said Carrol Milligan. “It should attract newcomers.”

Not far away, at a table standing enjoying food, Carol Smith gazed across the room.

“This ballroom is fantastic,” said Smith, 92, who attended the opening with her brother and sister-in-law Larry and Sharon Wright. “It’s breathtaking and something to be proud of,” she said.

“I think it will bring a lot of people into the community,” said Sharon Wright.

Across the room, seated at a table, Lorita Heller enjoyed food samples with her husband, Nick Heller.

“We wanted a convention center in Terre Haute and now we have one and it’s pretty cool,” said Lorita Heller.

“I think it can bring entertainment as well, and I think it would be good for the city,” said Anthony Mayes, seated next to the Hellers.

Challenges and collaboration

Marvel noted that work to start a convention center began in 2014.

According to the original concept, the convention center was to be connected to a renovated Hulman Center at Indiana State University.

However, a funding shortfall stalled this project, with the ISU deciding to move separately to renovate the Hulman Center. The convention center project later separated from the university and the Vigo County Capital Improvement Council was formed.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held in early April 2019, but it would take 229 days before construction began in late April 2020.

Once construction began, the project was completed on time and under budget, Marvel said. The total project cost is $34.89 million, with an actual construction cost of $27.21 million.

“It opens with the full cooperation of our city, county, convention bureau and visitors,” and Wabash Valley State lawmakers who lobbied for a food and beverage tax , said Marvel.

“Because of this collaboration, which is unusual for county and city governments, this is the result,” Marvel said. “It’s a beautiful building. It’s our newest community asset with 22,000 square feet of event space with the capacity to accommodate 800 attendees in a seated dinner and up to 1,000 people theater style,” said Marvel.

State Sen. Jon Ford, R-Terre Haute, said Wabash Valley lawmakers must work to secure a 1% food and beverage tax to support the project.

“We had to sell the community to people in the state and really let them know we were doing this for a specific project,” Ford said. “The Indiana General Assembly generally doesn’t like these kinds of food and beverage taxes, but the community did a great job promoting that we wanted it and the local government wanted it and we would transform this into a great project, and here we are to see this grand and magnificent building,” Ford said.

David Patterson, executive director of the Terre Haute Convention and Visitors Bureau and CIB member, said the convention center was made possible through “unprecedented collaboration between the city, county, Redevelopment Commission (of the city) and the Convention and Visitors Bureau. . That’s who funded this facility,” Patterson said.

Put heads in beds

Patterson noted that the CVB is funded by an 8% innkeeper tax on all overnight accommodations in Vigo County, which includes bread and breakfast places.

“I am pleased to report that during my 28 years in office, we have increased fundraising totals every year except 2020,” Patterson said. “Excluding the pandemic, we’ve raised over $2.4 million a year in three of the last four years, with the high point being just over $2.5 million. That tells you that tourism on land Haute is a $30 million a year industry,” Patterson said. mentioned.

“Think about it, a $30 million industry in Terre Haute,” he said, citing examples of events in April including a state high school drumming championship, a robotics competition, a race at Griffin Bike Park and a regional football and volleyball event that will draw 20,000 people to the city with an economic impact of $5 million.

“The role of the CVB is to put heads in beds. We do this by soliciting and enhancing all the wonderful events that bring late night visits to our community,” Patterson said.

“The facilities and people who host these events and the hotels that house attendees and attendees are to be commended for completing this economic contribution,” Patterson said. “This convention center allows our community to develop seemingly limitless potential for new events. The size, adaptable space, attached parking lot, hotel or hotels will increase this positive impact,” Patterson said.

More than $500,000 worth of events are already scheduled, he said.

More soon

Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett said the decline in retail and big-box stores, whose numbers are declining nationally, has prompted the need for a convention center as another means of attract visitors.

“This is the largest community project that we’ve done collectively in the history of our community, with the city, the county, the CVB – and every time you pay 1% percent of what you eat, that goes in this facility and the CIB. And there are other things to come,” the mayor said.

Bennett referred to two additional hotels that would be co-located on the site of the former Vigo County School Corporation administration building at 7th and Wabash Avenue.

“We’ll see how quickly it can be done,” the mayor said during his tour of the convention center.

“The READI (Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative) grant is not yet finalized, but that would be only part of it. It would be quite a large investment for the whole complex, which would add a small parking lot. We We need that, so we’ll find a way to help that from a public perspective to help them build those hotels,” the mayor said.

“It’s up to investors, Tim Dora (president of Dora Hotel Company) and others to pull the trigger. I hope construction could start soon. It will take about a year to build, but it will take that people are ready to make these investments,” the mayor said.

“It’s very typical in any community because when you put something like this convention center in place you need the next big thing and to do that there has to be a little local financial input for those things happen,” the mayor said. “We are really excited about what the future holds for us,” the mayor said.

Another factor for the convention center will be the opening of the Churchill Downs Casino, which has yet to begin but is expected to be completed in late 2023.

“You’ll have people going to conventions because they can go to the casino. People like having extra things to do and it’s all good together,” Bennett said. “They will work very well together,” the mayor said of the convention center and casino.

The mayor noted that Terre Haute businessman Greg Gibson was a catalyst for the project and for the Larry Bird Museum, which is still in development. “It will add a whole other component” to the convention center, the mayor said.

The Mayor also congratulated the Vigo County Commissioners, the Terre Haute City Council, the Vigo County Council and the CVB.

“Part of it is collapsing, the project is collapsing,” he said of the work of all government agencies. The Mayor also commended the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce for supporting the community and businesses.

“It’s about showing Terre Haute and bringing people here to show them what’s going on,” Bennett said.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or [email protected] Follow on Twitter @TribStarHoward.

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