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Despite Last Year's RFRA Objections, GenCon Expands In 2016

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Indy's largest convention is expanding.

Next year's GenCon game convention will sprawl from the Indiana convention center into Lucas Oil Stadium. The convention had been talking with Indianapolis about an expansion before putting those discussions on hold during this year's religious-freedom controversy.

Visit Indy vice president Chris Gahl says GenCon won’t use the football field itself.

“There are two exhibit halls and 12 meeting rooms that are in the stadium itself, so when you come to the connector from the convention center, it’s climate controlled and takes you under South Street, you arrive in the stadium at these two exhibit halls and these 12 meeting rooms,” Gahl says.

GenCon drew a record 61,000 attendees this year, and has doubled its attendance since 2010. Gahl says GenCon has had more exhibitor requests than it can accommodate in the convention center, and predicts making room for more game companies will boost attendance and the economic impact on Indianapolis.

Gahl says GenCon executives were reassured by the early introduction of a civil-rights bill for gays and lesbians in the Senate, seven months after the religious-freedom debate. But while the movement on a bill was enough to close the deal on expansion, Gahl says the ultimate fate of that legislation remains a factor in talks to extend GenCon's contract with Indianapolis beyond its expiration in 2020.

“They’re, we know, still eyeing what’s happening here in Indianapolis and throughout the state very closely. They’re contracted to stay in Indianapolis through 2020,” Gahl says. “However, we’re negotiating right now, with GenCon, to try to keep them past 2020 and we know LGBT protections is on their mind.”

Gahl expects GenCon to make a decision next year or in early 2017.

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