Clarksville recommended as site for future Southern Indiana conference center
After years of discussion and research, Southern Indiana tourism officials have honed in on a proposed site for a new conference center — which they say will help bring in new visitors and residents and continue the economic momentum in the area.
A recent feasibility study commissioned by SoIN Tourism — the local tourism bureau — shows a site adjacent to Clarksville’s growing downtown development as the best choice for a new conference center to serve the region.
The study, finished in July, compared the site with that of the former Jeffboat property along the Ohio River in Jeffersonville.
Researchers looked at factors including funding strategies, preliminary cost estimates and anticipated risks. Researchers found the Clarksville site, just east of the Falls of the Ohio State Park, was better suited as it would cost less and have a quicker construction turnaround.
Study recommendations for phase one of the project include a 25,000-square-foot multipurpose hall with an additional 12,000 square feet of meeting rooms. Future phases could include a 10,000-square-foot ballroom, 50,000-square-foot exhibit hall and full-service hotel.
Clarksville Town Manager Kevin Baity said in a news release the center would fit well with ongoing development plans in this part of town, which include the buildout of a new downtown corridor.
“Our vision for South Clarksville is to transition from a former industrial area into a walkable community with immediate access to retail, restaurants, parks and other recreational opportunities,” he said. “A future hotel and conference center was always a part of that vision, so this feasibility study simply confirms that South Clarksville is the place to be.”
Jim Epperson, executive director at SoIn Tourism, said the need for such a center has been growing for years — to provide more space for local events and to bring in visitors from out of town.
“It really is our best growth opportunity for increasing tourism, increasing visitor dollars to our community,” he said, adding that while the area brings in leisure and group travel, “this is a whole segment of the travel market that we're not able to tap into currently. It really is a game-changer for the hospitality industry and for showing off our community.”
He said having the center would bring in people not otherwise exposed to Southern Indiana and would help continue momentum the area has seen in recent years.
“We know from some research that we did a couple of years ago that when people visit here, their attitudes about Southern Indiana — as a place to live, to work, to start a business, to raise a family, to go to school — are all elevated by that visit,” he said.
The project is still in early stages. Clarksville officials say a design and construction timeline has not been set. The town’s redevelopment commission is expected to discuss next steps at its Aug. 29 meeting.
Coverage of Southern Indiana is funded, in part, by Samtec Inc. and the Hazel & Walter T. Bales Foundation.