Concert venue eyed for closed GM Indianapolis site

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A developer’s plans for a 15,000-seat outdoor amphitheater on the site of a closed General Motors metal-stamping plant near downtown Indianapolis could put it in competition with two similar nearby concert venues.

REI Investment Inc. has reached a deal to buy the 102-acre factory site from the trust that’s overseeing cleanup and sale of the property just south of the Indianapolis Zoo. The agreement announced Monday calls for the developer to sell half of the site to the city for a proposed jail and courts complex.

REI President Mike Wells said the company is looking for financing and possibly a partner to develop the outdoor amphitheater and parking for 5,000 vehicles.

The company might build apartments, restaurants and retail shops on the property if the amphitheater plan doesn’t succeed, Wells told The Indianapolis Star.

“We’re going to have to come up with a decision in the fall as to what direction we will go,” he said. “And then I think we would start construction probably in the second quarter (of 2015.)”

The amphitheater project could cost $40 million, the Indianapolis Business Journal reported.

The new venue would compete with the nearby White River State Park’s 7,500-seat amphitheater and the 24,000-seat Klipsch Music Center in the northern suburb of Noblesville.

If the new amphitheater is built, “It’s going to be a war,” said Gary Bongiovanni, editor-in-chief of Pollstar, a trade publication for the concert industry. “I don’t know, economically, how three outdoor facilities can exist in a market the size of Indianapolis.”

Wells said he wanted to work with White River State Park officials once his company decides on its plans for the factory site.

“That’s such a choice piece of property that an outdoor venue of some type would be a good use for the community,” he said.

General Motors started operating the factory in 1930 and it once employed some 6,000 workers. It had about 600 employees when GM closed it in 2011.

The site’s owner is Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response Trust, which was created to clean up and market properties owned by GM before its 2009 bankruptcy filing.

The trust, which is in the process of demolishing the factory buildings, made the sale to REI contingent on it selling half of the site to the city, said Bruce Rasher, the trust’s redevelopment manager.

Mayor Greg Ballard has suggested the site for a proposed jail and criminal justice facility costing up to $400 million, but the choice has faced criticism over its cost and for being close to residential neighborhoods.

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