INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- The biggest convention of the year is set to begin downtown, and many visitors showed up early to get settled in.
Gen Con kicks off Thursday morning and runs through Sunday.
The gaming convention, which has grown each year, is now expected to draw 61,000 attendees and make a $71 million impact on Indianapolis, according to Visit Indy.
"We have people coming from 54 different countries, from all around Indianapolis, (and) from all over driving distance around the United States," Gen Con's Vice President of Business Development Scott Elliott said.
Aleesha and Paul Habstritt drove 11 hours from Minnesota. They opted to rent a downtown condo on a vacation rental site.
"Last time we were out in the suburbs," Aleesha Zins-Habstritt said.
Other attendees will spend time in the suburbs, though. Visit Indy reported nearly every downtown hotel as full, with some rooms at upwards of $300-$400 with a two to three night minimum.
In Whitestown, the only hotel in town, a Hampton Inn, is booked solid. Gen Con and other large events have prompted more development, too. A Holiday Inn Express in under construction and at least one, if not two more, hotels are in the works, Town Manager Dax Norton said.
"I would say this is an affordable option and an ease of access option," Norton said.
Gamers showed up early for a kick-off event with Sun King Brewing on Georgia Street Wednesday night. The brewery tapped its exclusive Gen Con beer, Twenty Sided Rye, which will be on sale throughout the weekend downtown.
"This is our fifth year collaborating with Gen Con. We’re very happy to be here and it’s another great event," President Bob Whitt said.
It was the first of many events planned throughout the weekend, in what is sure to be a busy time downtown. Estimates put this as the largest Gen Con yet, and the first time it will take up part of Lucas Oil Stadium.