Lake County Convention Center study released

A new convention center would create hundreds of jobs in Lake County and provide a big, ongoing boost to the local economy

Gary's Genesis Convention Center is aging and lacking resources to bring new jobs.

A new convention center in Lake County would inject nearly $400 million into the local economy over the next 20 years, according to a new study presented recently to Lake County officials. Such a facility would also create over 700 full-time, part-time and temporary construction jobs, and boost local and state tax revenues by more than $44 million over the same time frame.

“That $400 million is a conservative figure,” notes Bill Hanna, President and CEO of the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority (RDA), which funded the study at the request of Lake County. “It only counts direct spending by people coming from outside Lake County to attend conventions and events here. Once that money gets into the pockets of local businesses and employees, it will be spent again and again and drive millions of dollars in further economic activity.”

The study, conducted by hospitality consulting firm CSL, envisions a 145,000-square-foot convention center in Lake County, roughly half of which would be space for events, meetings and banquets. This would include a 40,000-square-foot sub-dividable main space, a 17,000-square-foot ballroom and 13,000 square feet of meeting space.

For comparison purposes, the Radisson at Star Plaza in Merrillville had, prior to demolition, 30,000 square feet of event space.

According to the study, such a convention center would require an adjacent hotel with at least 225 rooms and another 400 to 450 hotel rooms in close proximity.

“We are pleased with the results of the study. The South Shore CVA has been touting the need for a convention center for two decades and the idea that this is both economically and fiscally viable is gratifying. Large state and regional conventions, pouring millions of dollars into the economy each year, would return and we would have another great attraction to be proud of,” said Speros A. Batistatos, President and CEO of the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority.

Nine potential locations are presented in the study, including sites in Munster, Hammond, Gary, Merrillville, Hobart and Crown Point. The study also examines the county’s options for funding the construction, operations and maintenance of the convention center, as well as the expected annual revenues from events, estimated number and size of events and much more. A full copy of the study can be downloaded here:

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  1. My quick two-cents.

    I beleive that the convention center might present a greater boon to Gary (if it is built there) than it would to Merrillville.

    Tens of millions of dollars of private redevelopment is already slated for the Raddison site in Merrillville. Therefore, with or without the convention center, Merrillville has new development in the pipeline for that site.

    I beleive the Gary site has does not yet have sufficient existing hotel rooms. However, it does have two existing hotels in very close proximity (at the Majestic Star and Ameristar casinos).

    With Gary, there would also be the ability to easily run shuttle busses to and from a South Shore Line station during large conventions.

    Also, if regular commercial air service eventually arrives at the Gary/Chicago International Airport that could provide tremendous synergy with an adjecent convention center.

    With Gary a benefit and a detriment could be the location. The location would allow the headquarters hotel amd convention center to take advantage of Lale Michigan views (a benefit). However, the location is in an area seated in between two heavily industrialized stretches of lakefront (a potential detriment).

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