RDA study says Hobart best place for new convention center • Northwest Indiana Business Magazine
Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority study

RDA study says Hobart best place for new convention center

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The Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority announced its top pick for the site of a new convention center in Lake County.

Of 14 potential locations considered by Johnson Consulting, which scored them, Patriot Park in Hobart was the leading site to implement the study's 145,000-square-foot plan.

The Hard Rock Casino in Gary; the Century Mall in Merrillville; the former Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza site at I-65 and U.S. 30; and Kennedy Avenue and Interstate 94 in Hammond rounded out the top five.

“When the Radisson hotel and conference center closed, it left a gap in Lake County’s event space market which has yet to be filled,” said Charles Johnson, president and CEO of Johnson Consulting, in a press release.

The study, which was commissioned by the RDA at the instruction of the Indiana General Assembly, was released March 14. It built on an analysis completed in 2018. It reconfirmed that a convention center in Lake County was viable.

The study also said the project would inject more than $16 million each year into the Region's economy. The potential center would create more than 1,300 construction jobs, and bring in more $3.5 million every year in tax revenues.

“Lake County – and Northwest Indiana as a whole – has a huge amount of momentum right now,” says Sherri Ziller, president and CEO of the RDA.

She pointed out that the double-track and West Lake commuter rail projects to the Midwest Hydrogen Hub make the Region ripe for development.

“A new, state-of-the-art convention center adding millions of dollars to the local economy every year would keep that momentum rolling and help cement the Region as the place to be,” Ziller said.

Johnson also said the 2016 closing of the former Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza in Merrillville left “a gap” in the Region's entertainment options.

“With the meetings and hospitality industry continuing to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, and little competition for larger spaces south of downtown Chicago outside of Tinley Park, the time is right for Indiana’s second most populous county to invest in its tourism infrastructure and take greater advantage of the activity occurring in the Chicagoland region as well as in the State of Indiana,” he said. “This project could catalyze Lake County’s destination development while also providing an amenity for locals.”

The proposed convention center would include 73,000 square feet of meeting and exhibition space. The state said it will match up to $100 million for the construction.

“In terms of economic development, a Lake County convention center is low-hanging fruit,” said Randy Palmateer, vice chairman of the RDA board and Lake County’s representative on the RDA board of directors. “… Any way you look at it, it’s a winning opportunity for Lake County.”


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