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Study could lead to Grand Wayne expansion

Grand Wayne Center’s board of managers voted to pay for a study that could recommend an expansion of the downtown convention center.

Board members were quick to say it is not an expansion study, and they turned down one company in the running for the work because its proposal assumed officials wanted to expand.

“We were very clear: This is not an expansion analysis, this is a utilization analysis,” board President Nancy Jordan said. The study will look at the convention market in the community and the Midwest, how the Grand Wayne Center is being used and how developments downtown will affect the facility.

Grand Wayne Center Executive Director Bart Shaw said the $49,000 study by Hunden Strategic Partners of Chicago will also look at which conventions are being drawn and which are not – and why.

“It will say, ‘This is the world you play in, and these are the groups you’ve been going after, but your best bet is to go after these groups,’” Shaw said. “It will look at how to maximize our impact in the community.”

Officials concede, however, that the study may say the way to maximize the convention center’s impact is to expand.

The most recent expansion, which cost $40 million and more than doubled the facility’s size, opened in May 2005. And with the opening of a second hotel connected to the center, business has been booming so much that officials often struggle to fit events into the schedule.

Every year, is a record year, it seems, and the Grand Wayne is getting conventions that had been going to Indianapolis.

The $49,000 cost includes a $4,000 optional study of the convention center’s marketing efforts.

“We want to make sure we’re maximizing our relationship with downtown Fort Wayne, Visit Fort Wayne and the two hotels,” board member Steve Brody said. “We want to make sure we’re all pulling in the same direction.”

Jordan said the marketing component of the study is a bargain.

“When you look at how much we spend on marketing, that’s pretty reasonable to validate what we’re doing or say we need to correct it,” she said.