INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (July 30, 2015)-- Visit Indy said 60,000 people are expected in downtown Indianapolis this weekend for the global gaming convention Gen Con.
But earlier this year, the city’s biggest convention got political, threatening to pull out over the state’s religious freedom law.
Gen Con and Visit Indy said 2015 will be the biggest year yet for the conference, contractually set in Indianapolis through 2020. But it remains to be seen what will happen after that.
Gamers are packing the Indiana Convention Center and Georgia Street in droves, decked out in costumes, flying in from all across the county, and frankly, the world.
“It’s a big convention for Indianapolis,” said Chris Gahl, with Visit Indy.
Big may be an understatement. Gahl said the economic impact of Gen Con is $67 million, money that very well could have vanished in future years without a fix to RFRA by lawmakers.
“Had it not been for that fix, Gen Con would’ve left,” Gahl said.
Gen Con expressed its displeasure to the state’s religious freedom law this spring by way of a formal letter to Indiana Governor Mike Pence, a move sparked because organizers said Gen Con is a welcoming environment for all gamers.
“We had a lot of attendees who, when they heard the news of what was going on, wanted to know how we felt about it,” said Stacia Kirby, Gen Con spokesperson.
Gahl said the work to keep Gen Con was going on before RFRA, and it especially continues now.
“We’ve been courting Gen Con for the past 24 months to negotiate a deal to keep them here past 2020,” he said.
For Gen Con’s part, Kirby said the experience this year in Indianapolis has been great so far as always.
“We could absolutely stay here. We haven’t started anything seriously. We love Indianapolis,” she said.
But as for the future, time will tell if the state’s politics will play into a different kind of game. Will Gen Con stay or will it go?
“Who knows what will happen, but at this point, Indianapolis is a wonderful place,” said Kirby.
There are looming political issues Gen Con could use for consideration, like if Indiana lawmakers consider adding any protections for LGBT individuals in the years to come.
Gen Con will be putting out a request for proposals in the fall for locations to hold the conference after 2020. Kirby indicated this is a standard timetable, and it is not motivated by political events.