Hotel rooms are becoming harder to find for visitors to Johnson County, but more hotels are being proposed, including up to three at a sports and retail complex planned in Greenwood.

The developers of the proposed Greenwood Sportsplex have requested permission to build up to three eight-story hotels at the site. If built, the hotels would be the tallest buildings in Greenwood. Across Johnson County, hotel occupancy rates and prices are rising, with occupancy rates reaching their highest point ever earlier this summer.

In June, Indy Fuel owners Jim and Sean Hallett, Indianapolis-based developer Gershman Partners announced a sports and retail complex to be developed on a 105-acre site east of Interstate 65. Plans call for the Halletts to spend $25 million on the sports complex with ice rinks, turf fields and basketball courts, and for Gershman Partners to spend $15 million bringing in a movie theater, entertainment center and up to 10 additional restaurants or retailers.

The developers are set to receive $8.5 million in financial incentives from the city for the work and are finalizing a contract this month.

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The Halletts also are considering up to three hotels and are requesting permission from the city to bypass the 60-foot height limit on buildings.

The tallest building in Greenwood is the four-story, 50-foot Greenwood city building in downtown Greenwood, planning director Bill Peeples said.

When the sportsplex project was unveiled this summer, plans called for one hotel with 240 rooms, but multiple hotels are a possibility, Sean Hallett said.

How many hotels would be built, how many rooms they would have and how much they would cost hasn’t been determined yet, as they are still in the planning stages, he said.

The sportsplex will be marketed as a site for multi-day youth sports tournaments, and families will need a place to stay, Hallett said. The hotel would be full service, including restaurants and a banquet center, he said.

The sportsplex would be near several hotels at the I-65 and County Line Road interchange, including one hotel east of it along Graham Road.

When developers decide whether more hotels are needed in an area, the key number they look at is if the occupancy rate is above 70 percent, said Ken Kosky, the director of tourism for Journey Johnson County.

Johnson County has 10 hotels with 835 rooms, he said.

The occupancy rate this year through July is 72 percent, but the occupancy rate reached its highest point ever earlier this summer, at 82 percent in June, Kosky said, citing data from Smith Travel Research.

Average prices at hotels have also been on the rise, going up from $73 in 2015 to more than $80 this year, a trend Kosky expects will continue as long as occupancy rates remain high.

The shortage of hotel rooms has reached the point where organizers of county events are having to direct visitors wanting to stay in the area overnight to out-of-county hotels, Koske said.

“We are at a level that new hotels could have been built one and two years ago,” he said.

The hotels proposed at the sportsplex would be the largest ones in the county by far, Koske said.

The sports complex, which could have more than two million visits a year, will need to have a place to for people to stay during multi-day events, Kosky said.

“They will need every room of those proposed hotels,” Kosky said.

In Franklin, a city board approved the construction of a four-story, 81-room hotel last month. The $8 million Fairfield Inn will be built on the north side of King Street, just west of Interstate 65, and will be ready as early as next summer.

Outside of the Franklin hotel and the ones proposed near the sportsplex, Kosky said he has had discussions with developers interested bringing additional hotels to the county, but no plans have been announced.

By the numbers

Hotel rooms are getting harder to find in Johnson County. Here’s a look at what is available.

Number of hotels: 10

Number of rooms: 835

Occupancy rate

2015: 71 percent

2016: 71 percent

2017 (through July): 72 percent

April: 76 percent

May: 77 percent

June: 82 percent

July: 79 percent

Source: Smith Travel Research

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Jacob Tellers is a reporter at the Daily Journal. He can be reached at jtellers@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2702.