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$275 million Indianapolis Convention Center Expansion Progresses on Schedule;
Will be Nations 16th Largest Convention Center Complex

By Dan McFeely, The Indianapolis StarMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Jul. 17, 2009--The old 50-yard line is quickly becoming the heart of an expanded Indiana Convention Center, a $275 million project that officials say is on schedule.

But during a media tour Thursday, you could hardly tell where that symbolic RCA Dome line was. Along with a sea of dirt, the scene was filled with steel beams, tall cranes and more than 200 hard hats.

The convention center -- undergoing its fourth expansion since it opened in 1972 -- is quickly taking shape along Capitol Avenue, where it will connect with Lucas Oil Stadium and become the nation's 16th-largest convention center complex.

Although work was slowed after the death of a construction worker last month, the pace has picked up. On Thursday, more than 100 contractors and 220 crewmen were on-site.

"It's been a symphony of logistics of trucks and men," said Tom Scheele, a project executive with Shiel Sexton, the project managers along with Powers and Sons of Gary.

Most of the work has been concentrated on the northwest corner of the site, near the existing convention center. Officials say work on this section is 80 percent complete and will be ready by fall.

The rest of the site -- future exhibit space that will extend south toward the stadium -- still is mostly bare as crews concentrate on shoring up a concrete retaining wall at the CSX tracks, which run between the stadium and the construction site.

Bill Benner, a spokesman for the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association, said the new convention hall already has 75 groups booked for events through 2024.

"They will bring 2.8 million attendees, 1.4 million hotel room nights and about $1.7 billion in spending," Benner said.

Scheele said the project should be completed by late December 2010.


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