A Hard Hat Tour – The JW Marriott Indianapolis

JW Marriott Hard Hat Tour (46)
Last week I got to do something that makes my life as a meeting and event professional worth living, one of those things that is so cool that we brag about it to our friends, relatives and any other poor schmuck within ear shot, one of those things that only meeting and event professionals get to do.

I went on a hard hat tour of the new JW Marriott in downtown Indianapolis which is scheduled to open in February of 2011.

Now, calling this a hard hat tour is a bit of a stretch. They are past the need for actual hard hats to be required on the tour, but this is the common term for the expedition that we were led on and what the heck, it sounds better than “a pre-opening” tour. You can rest assured, there were a whole bunch of saws, hammers and things that could kill you on the tour and it was not all cream puffs and coffee. This was a real deal construction tour.

The new JW is going to be a work of art, a meeting planners dream hotel. Plenty of meeting space, lots of posh guest rooms and if they don’t have what you need, the facility is connected by skyway to the Indianapolis Convention Center and three other properties… a Springhill Suites, a Courtyard and Fairfield Inn. They are dubbing their little multiacre complex “Marriott Place” and they have enough rooms in every price-point to make your group fall over from “Inclusionitis”. There is a room for every budget in this complex.

What I find so unique about this JW is not the fact that it is a nice property or that it has all of the amenities that you would expect in a JW, what is unique is that it is in an extremely underrated city for programs.

Indianapolis should be on everyone’s radar for programs of any size. The city has kicked the blocks out from the renovation wagon and that sucker has left the starting gate and is picking up speed as it rolls downhill. Indy is going to be a force to be reckoned with in the coming years, you mark my words. Chicago, Minneapolis and Cleveland, you heed my warning. Indy wants your business and they are coming for it, both barrels blazing with laser sights.

Let’s have a look into the meetings and conference juggernaut that will be the JW Marriott.

Guest Rooms:

  • 32 Floors
  • 980 Guest Rooms
  • 25 Suites

Meeting Space:

  • 55 Meeting Rooms
  • 100,000 + Sq Feet of Meeting Space
  • The Grand Ball Room seats 4500
  • 34 Break Out Meeting Rooms

Sales Team

  • Meeting planner friendly sales team that is genuine
  • They have a great understanding of their property and the surrounding area
  • 100% professional and ready to work with planners

Basically, the sales team has none of the bad “sales” habits I mentioned yesterday.

This in itself is great, but add the “Marriott Place” hotels that are all attached and you have a winning combination. Any association can now invite their members and not worry about if they have a property that fits a particular members economic profile. They do, others don’t. Members staying in any of these properties do not even have to walk outside to get to the JW where the actual program will be taking place. Their little tushies don’t even have to get cold or wet to get to the opening session as they can stay inside, nice and warm for the whole 5 minute walk.

There are other reasons that this place is going to rock and I mentioned it above and that is Indianapolis itself. The city is getting ready to kick some meeting and conference ass by getting their whole city in line and on program. Let’s have a look at what they are doing, have in place or have on the drawing board.

The Airport:

  • A brand new (2008) state of the art airport
  • Built after 9/11 so security is “built in” and passenger friendly
  • All of the shopping and eating you could want
  • Some shopping and dining outside of security is an added bonus

The airport is really nice and having spent a few hours there, I will say that it is a much better experience than most.

Indianapolis Downtown

Indianapolis is not the cow town that people think it is, Indianapolis is a state of the art, forward thinking Midwest city. The Indianapolis CVB has a nice little blurb that sums it up:

Together, Lucas Oil Stadium and our newly-expanded Indiana Convention Center form one of the nation’s largest convention facilities, connected by climate-controlled walkways to over 7,000 rooms in 12 different hotels, including a new hotel with over a thousand rooms and the Midwest’s largest ballroom. Add a four-story shopping mall, more than 200 restaurants and clubs, attractions from baseball to blues, then subtract a tedious commute to and from your meetings—it’s all a comfortable walk from your room.

This video, which is really cool, also highlights the Indy downtown with information that meeting and conference planners need.

In addition, they are the host for the 2012 Superbowl and are transforming their downtown area, refreshing it and making it pedestrian friendly.

The sheer number of companies and national associations with headquarters or regional offices in downtown is staggering and a real eye-opener, they include WellPoint, Inc., Eli Lilly, the National Association of High School Athletics and Simon Property Group and the NCAA has begun a $35 million, 130,000 square-feet headquarters expansion.

If you are thinking about a program in America’s heartland, I would take a look at Indianapolis……


Keith Johnston

Keith Johnston

Keith is the Managing Partner of i3 Events but is most widely known as the outspoken publisher of the event industry blog PlannerWire. In addition to co-hosting the Bullet List and Event Tech Pull Up Podcasts, he has been featured in Plan Your Meetings, Associations Now, Convene, Event Solutions, and has appeared on the cover of Midwest Meetings Magazine.

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