Northwest Indiana RDA shares feasibility study for a Lake County convention center

Northwest Indiana RDA shares feasibility study for a Lake County convention center

Consistently finding and supporting projects that support economic growth through the Region, the Northwest Indiana (NWI) Regional Development Authority (RDA) recently commissioned a feasibility study for a potential Lake County convention center. 

Researching and discussing a potential convention center is a large win for NWI. With the closure of the Star Plaza Theatre, a large gap was created that has yet to be filled. 

“The Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza was the de facto convention center for the county,” said David Wellman, NWI RDA communications manager. “The Radisson was doing about $6 million annually in meetings and events before it closed, and a lot of that business has just vanished now.”

The NWI RDA commissioned the study for a potential convention center that was completed by Johnson Consulting. 

Within the study, 14 potential sites were identified. The study expanded on the Star Plaza’s footprint by exploring areas for a 145,000-square-foot facility. According to the study, this would allow for multiple options in terms of how a potential site could be utilized. 

“The feasibility study has been completed and the results turned over to the Lake County Commissioners for their use,” said Wellman. “They will consider whether or not to move ahead with a convention center project.”

NWI RDA’s study builds off of work completed in 2018. 

“The study is intended to play an advisory role,” said Wellman. “They are not bound to follow its recommendations, but we believe that there is a great deal in both this update and the original 2018 study that will be of use to NWI leaders.” 

The identified potential sites lie within Munster, Hammond, Gary, Merrillville, Hobart, and Crown Point. 

The leading site was Patriot Park in Hobart followed by the Hard Rock Casino in Gary and the Century Mall in Merrillville.

Lake County, Indiana is Indiana’s second most populous county. Adding a convention center to NWI is expected to bring 1,300 jobs and $3.5 million a year.   

The benefits of this center would expand beyond the center itself. 

“When people come into the area for an event or a meeting, they spend money on food and entertainment,” said Wellman. “So many businesses benefit directly from having the traffic that a convention center brings in.”

The absence of the Radisson and the Star Plaza has negatively impacted the region in recent years. 

“There were multiple restaurants right next to the Radisson site that have closed now that it’s gone,” said Wellman. 

Not only did the NWI RDA commission the feasibility study. They are also ready to support the project if county officials decide to proceed. 

“At this point, everything is in the county’s hands,” said Wellman. “If they do go ahead with the project, the state has pledged up to $5 million a year in matching funds over 20 years ($100 million in total), and the NWI RDA would have a role in managing the state's contribution to the project.”

Wellman’s goal is to continue to support growth throughout the Region and positively improve the lives of residents. 

“Just like a new rail line or an airport runway, a convention center is a piece of infrastructure that can drive economic development in Northwest Indiana,” said Wellman. “Ultimately, that’s what NWI RDA is all about – working to make sure people and businesses prosper and grow.”

To learn more about the NWI RDA, please visit