Carmel Redevelopment Commission approves $2.2M for light show on Palladium exterior


The Palladium is set to become the backdrop for a light show aimed at boosting tourism in Carmel.

The Carmel Redevelopment Commission in August unanimously approved up to $2.2 million to purchase and install 12 projectors on the roof of the James and Tarkington buildings south of the Palladium for the hour-long show, which will begin daily at dusk. Installation will occur in the coming months with the show expected to make its debut in mid-2023.

In between the two buildings is Carter Green, an urban park where Carmel residents and guests can watch the show on the southern-facing side of the Palladium. The projectors will be installed high enough that events in Carter Green, such as the annual Christkindlmarkt with its 33-foot-tall Glühwein pyramid, won’t interfere with the light show.

The purchase and installation of the projectors from Bloomington-based Blockhouse Studios is funded through the CRC’s Urban Parks fund, which contains tax increment financing dollars generated through CRC projects. Residential property tax funds will not be used for the project.

Last year, the city council had approved $1.5 million in bond funds – which can now be allocated by the council for another use – for a light show on the Midtown water tower and adjacent 911 communications tower, but as CRC officials worked with industry consultants on the project, they realized the Palladium would be a better fit.

“There was this eureka moment where the professionals were like, ‘Why are we talking about the water tower? You have the most amazing canvas (on the Palladium) in this city for a projection show we’ve ever seen,’” CRC Director Henry Mestetsky said during the August meeting.

Mestetsky said Blockhouse Studios will “perfectly map out every detail” of the Palladium down to the millimeter to fine-tune the projection of the light shows to fit the building. The shows will not be projected onto windows or other areas where light could enter the building, meaning the show will not be visible inside the Palladium or disrupt programming inside.

The light show, which will be connected to the sound system in Carter Green, is expected to continuously illuminate the Palladium as a backdrop most of the time but take center stage for a few minutes every hour.

“It’s envisioned that maybe five minutes to the hour, every hour, we would have the big, Instagrammable-moment show that’s really going to drive traffic, drive clicks, drive views and really continue making Carmel a destination,” Mestetsky said.

Limited-run shows by national artists or seasonal shows could be added as well.

Annual maintenance costs for the light show are expected to fall between $8,000 and $10,000, with electricity expected to cost $2,600 per year. The cost to develop a light show program ranges from $3,000 to $200,000 depending on its length, complexity and other factors.

Brenda Myers, president and CEO of Hamilton County Tourism, told the CRC that she is proposing $100,000 in her organization’s 2023 budget to fund creation of the first show. The HCT budget is set for a vote in November, and Myers said board members have responded optimistically to her proposal to partner with the CRC on the project.

“We genuinely believe this is in our wheelhouse,” Myers said. “This is exactly the kind of activity that makes sense for us.”

Myers said data collected by HCT shows that January through March is when the county typically experiences a dip in visitors, and that evening activities that can be experienced spontaneously are lacking in the area. She said a light show could give tourism a boost in both areas.

Blockhouse has created light shows at Newfields, Fountain Square, Las Vegas and elsewhere.

Jeff Worrell, a city councilor who is also a member of the CRC, said he was “skeptical” when he first heard about plans to put a light show on the Palladium but that its expected boost to Carmel tourism – and thus local businesses – and other factors convinced him to vote in favor of the plan.

“We did debate (light shows) ad nauseum at the council level when we were looking at putting it on the water tower, and I voted for that. I believed in that project,” Worrell said. “Now, we’re actually almost having our cake and eating it, too.”


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