By Adam Aasen
When Grand Park Sports Complex first opened in Westfield, Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard phoned Westfield Mayor Andy Cook. He wanted to thank him for all the visitors coming to Carmel.
“About last summer Mayor Brainard calls Mayor Cook and says, ‘Just want to say thanks. I’m sitting in my office and all I see are soccer jerseys,’” Westfield Deputy Mayor Todd Burtron said. “(Cook) said, ‘Thanks, Jim. Send some of that money up north.’ So what we have to do is give people a reason to come to Westfield, and now we are working on our next economic development goals.”
It underscores a question many have had about Grand Park: Westfield paid to have it built, but other cities are benefitting.
Brainard said he remembers that call, but he said the lesson is that Carmel and Westfield benefit from each other.
“First day it was opened, the Arts & Design District was packed,” Brainard said. “I jokingly left a message for Mayor Cook to thank him on his voicemail. Quite honestly, it’s a good lesson in regionalism. When we built The Palladium, the mayor of Kokomo asked if he could use it in his economic development materials for marketing, and I said, ‘Of course.’ When Indianapolis does something, it’s good for the region. All of these things add to our quality of life in the Indianapolis-metro area.”
Burtron said it would be foolish for Westfield to be upset about Carmel hotels filling with Grand Park visitors. He said Indianapolis and all of the cities in Hamilton County have to work together.
“Others are benefitting from it, and that’s OK,” he said. “Think about the Indianapolis Colts. We benefit from that. We’re in this together, and we can’t sit back and wait for things to happen.”
Part of the reason Carmel benefits from Grand Park is because more visitors come to the sports complex than there are hotel rooms available in Westfield. But that soon might change. Westfield selected Jonathan Byrd’s as the develop a five-story 180-room hotel adjacent to the events center. The hotel might have a “dormitory-feel” with room for several guests to a room, which is what traveling teams are often looking for. The Grand Junction Park & Plaza is a big part of that plan, creating, “a focal point for Westfield’s downtown, including an amphitheater and Great Lawn gathering place for festivals, concerts and special events, an interactive water play area, an arts garden, a full size ice skating rink in the winter months, a hardscape festival boulevard and a play in nature area,” according to the city’s website. Restaurants and hotels are in the works in connection to the project.
Additional hotels also are planned. The city announced a $12 million, four-story Hampton Inn near Grand Park, at the southwest corner of U.S. 31 and Ind. 32. It will have 93 rooms and open in the spring 2017. In October 2014, Westfield announced a project to build a Cambria Suites.
“Over time, Westfield will benefit more directly,” Brainard said. “Improvements on U.S. 31 will help bring more development up there. I’m excited about what they are doing, and we’re great partners.”
Carmel might also see restaurants and hotels built with Grand Park visitors in mind, Brainard said. He said he’s heard of some interest in companies opening family-style restaurants to feed large youth sports teams.
Hamilton County hotels pay a bed tax to the county visitor’s bureau, and often that money goes to promote and market Grand Park since it is responsible for so many of the visitors.
The increased traffic between Westfield and Carmel has led Westfield to plan for additional roundabouts to replicate Carmel’s transportation plan, Burtron said.
“Whatever Mayor Brainard does we feel pressure that we have to do it, too,” he said. “It’s not good for roundabouts to stop when you travel from Carmel to Westfield.”