INDIANAPOLIS — What are Gen Zers looking for to keep their interest in downtown Indianapolis long enough to consider starting their post-graduate careers here?

”The number one thing they found exciting or attractive in this model that we had was a riverwalk experience along the White River,” said David Pierce, director of IUPUI’s Sports Innovation Institute who determined survey respondents also wanted, ”unique urban adventure experiences like zip lining and rock climbing and structures to climb that other cities have added in recent years, and then the last piece was themed amusement parks, something like along the lines of Navy Pier in Chicago.”

The survey was conducted by IUPUI’s Department of Tourism, Event and Sport Management Industry Advisory Council with a strong emphasis on hospitality and recreational options that would lead to young people coming downtown for fun but staying for jobs.

“Tourism is ripe with opportunities to go from entry level to manager level very quickly with an ascending city and an ascending industry with Indy tourism,” said Visit Indy VP Chris Gahl, “and we see that every day with Ivy Tech and IUPUI and tourism-related students who graduate with internships, real world experience, in a world class city that hosts major tradeshows and events and sporting events they could quickly get to work and plugged in and make really good money in our industry and have fun.”

Participants in a symposium to discuss the survey on the IUPUI campus called for tweaking Indianapolis’ image as an Amateur Sports Capitol to reflect the interests of Gen Z and the ever expanding tourism and convention industries.

”Indianapolis is right on par image wise and likely to visit for a fun trip with Nashville and Indy and Nashville significantly outpace Louisville and Columbus,” said Pierce. ”Sports and tourism and daily living things are the things that kind of keep you living somewhere and then those kind of economic and housing factors are what drive you there in the first place.”

Along with anticipated development of an expanded convention center and headquarters hotel on the site of Pan Am Plaza, The Indy 11 soccer stadium is moving from the drawing board toward a groundbreaking while construction continues on affordable downtown multi-family housing such as the Rise on Meridian Apartments on the southside of downtown.

Pierce listed the most important quality of life and recreational issues as articulated by the 500 Gen Z survey respondents.

”It was cost of living, housing and rental costs, job opportunities and safety from crime,” he said. ”The number one thing was having lots to see and do, so there was not a sense in this set of survey responses anyway that there was a lack of things to do in Indy, and the two and three were sports and having a small town vibe.”

Zaniah Nolen left Goshen to come to Indianapolis and IUPUI to study Human Resources Management.

She would consider not leaving Indiana after graduation.

”Probably because of family and everything I want to stay but probably in my later twenties I might want to relocate,” said Zaniah who finds her future more important than current entertainment or recreational diversions. ”Friends are gonna be temporary. A career is something that is gonna have you secure in your life for the future.”

Freshman Jackson Galovic of Decatur Township hasn’t pinned down a major yet but is certain that whatever contacts he makes in the next three years will be instrumental in launching his career.

”I’m making connections here so the businesses I meet with when I get further up when I’m a junior or a senior, the connections that I make in the city, I say that would keep me here,” he said. ”I would say starting off and building your career is more important and then you can do the fun stuff later on in your life.”

Gahl said Indy Visit is aware that every tourist is a potential resident and employee.

”We talk to Downtown Indy all the time about how do we turn a prospective visitor who might be coming in for Indiana Black Expo and have an enjoyable weekend, how do we get their attention to think about opening up business here or staying here as part of a residential strategy? They’re all part of the equation. We’re a firm believer in, if we’re a city worth visiting, we’re a city worth living in.

”When you look at Gen Z and how they’re traveling and where they’re traveling, the disposable income, what would motivate them to come to an Indy rather than a Nashville or Austin or Denver or Chicago?” Gahl asked. “We’re thinking deeply about what attractions, what events, what festivals, how you physically get around a destination, biking versus a scooter versus an uber, how does Indianapolis appeal to all demographics, all walks of life, specifically Gen Z which is coming into the real forefront here in terms of traveling and disposable income and cultivating fans. Gen Z is starting to establish a rapport with cities where they want to live, work, play, visit, and so we, Indianapolis, have to put our best foot forward to make sure that when they think of cities, first and foremost they’re thinking about Indy.”