The JW Marriott Indianapolis Downtown (aka Big Blue) Makes a Splash

It's big, it's blue and, at 34 soaring glass stories, its the tallest hotel in the state of Indiana. But that's not all the new JW Marriott Indianapolis Downtown, which opened its doors last week, claims bragging rights to. It's also the largest JW Marriott in the world, both in terms of room count (1,005) and meeting space (104,000 square feet in total), and it's 40,500-square-foot ballroom is the largest in the Midwest. With the exception of the JW Marriott at L.A. LIVE, which opened almost exactly one year ago, it is the only other headquarters hotel within the JW portfolio, which now stands at 49 globally and counting.

On a broader scale, the luxury property seals Marriott's dominance of the downtown Indianapolis hotel market, where five Marriott properties known collectively as Marriott Place, a $450 million complex representing 2,248 rooms, are all connected to the newly expanded Indiana Convention Center. And therein, says Cory Chambers, the hotel's director of sales and marketing, lies "Big Blue's" greatest challenge. "Unlike the other JWs, which are either in major gateway cities, or resorts with golf and spa that attract independent and leisure travelers, this hotel depends on group business as our primary target market," he notes. "We're sold out for the 2012 Superbowl. We have strong business for this year through 2012, and we've already achieved our projections for further out. Now, the challenge becomes generating that shorter-term business that books within a three-month window."

Selling groups on the benefits of holding a meeting at the JW Marriott Indianapolis Downtown, muses Chambers, a three-year transplant from the New Orleans Marriott, depends more on his talents for marketing the city as a destination than touting his hotel's cavernous meeting space, trendy restaurants and slick service. As he puts it, "People say, 'You've a great product, but where exactly is Indianapolis? I think we drove through there once on a family vacation when I was a kid.'" It's time, he says, for those planners to take a second look.

"I believe this hotel has moved the needle for Indianapolis," Chambers adds, "and groups that might not have considered us in the past are going to be very surprised when they take another look at everything this city has to offer."