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INDIANAPOLIS–The coronavirus has posed plenty of challenges to the City of Indianapolis, but it can recover and has a lot going for it. That was the message from Chris Gahl, the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications of Visit Indy.

Gahl spoke to 93 WIBC’s Tony Katz Wednesday morning. He said there’s been very little to no activity at the Indiana Convention Center since the pandemic really became a problem in mid-March.

“It’s been sealed off since Tuesday, March 17. It’s not been set up for any medical treatments or anything inside the walls,” Gahl said. An empty convention center is normally not a welcome sight for him, but since it has been empty, that means the coronavirus can’t spread there. That, in turn, will make it easier to reopen.

Gahl says when conventions start to come back, research shows people will want to drive and be in control of their own “travel destiny,” which favors Indianapolis.

“More than half of the U.S. population is within an 8-hour drive or less of Indy and we can recover a lot quicker because of our location,” says Gahl. “We think people from Chicago, St. Louis, Louisville, Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville, will probably come first.”

GenCon was supposed to happen July 30-August 2 but was canceled because of the coronavirus. It has been rescheduled for August 5-8, 2021 at the Indiana Convention Center. GenCon is contracted to take place in Indianapolis through 2026. It is the nation’s largest tabletop-game convention and one of the biggest conventions in Indianapolis every year.

“One of the reasons we are looking to expand the Convention Center over onto the footprint of Pan Am Plaza and put up new hotels is because of GenCon and many other conventions that are outgrowing the city,” says Gahl.

The coronavirus has caused plans for future hotels in Indianapolis and around the country to fall through.

“That natural attrition has caused even more demand for projects like Pan Am to be put in place. We are going to need additional rooms to help conventions like GenCon stay in place because their growth pattern is significant,” says Gahl.

Gahl anticipates conventions will probably start coming back around September or October, provided that there are no coronavirus setbacks.