FFA brings 55K visitors, $40M to Indy

Annual convention heads to Louisville next year

INDIANAPOLIS - An army of FFA members can be found all around the city. They are 10,000 strong, and when you add in advisors and volunteers, 55,000 people are in town for the annual convention.

The FFA members spend cash, and the convention has a $40 million impact on the city, the same as an NCAA men's Final Four.

All the hotel rooms in central Indiana, including those at the Marriott, are filled.

"It's one of the best weeks of the year with all the blue jackets running around," said Marriott general manager Phil Ray. "Obviously it's been great. Disappointed we are going to lose it for a few years to give Louisville a chance to have it for three years, but we are looking forward to have it come back, no question about it."

Indianapolis has hosted the FFA Convention every year since 2006, but Louisville will take over for the next three years.

Officials are already trying to figure out how to fill the FFA void during the next three years.

"We've worked hard to replace national FFA with smaller corporate groups, life science, medical, sports related tourism," said Chris Gahl, vice president of Visit Indy. "We had a lot of success, but still some work cut out for us because of the enormity of FFA. "

The convention will return to Indianapolis in 2016-2018 before heading back to Louisville for 2019-2021.

After that, it is up for grabs.

"When we look (ahead) we unquestionably want FFA back in Indy," Gahl said. "We feel this is their home. We've enjoyed an incredible relationship. We look forward to the bid process, and hopefully enticing them to come back and stay here for another seven years plus."

While FFA is here the members are packing one million nourishing meals to fight hunger.

Half of those meals will be distributed in Indianapolis, and the other half will be shipped to Haiti.  

Each of the FFA members will work a one-hour shift, so everyone can participate in the project. While they are focused on doing good works, they are aware Indianapolis is negotiating to bring the convention back in the future.

"The city is great. They are very welcoming helping us get around," said FFA member Olivia Cesnick. "The Convention Center is beautiful. All the amenities are outstanding. I really love Indianapolis."

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