MICHIGAN CITY — Northwest Indiana is poised to attract more visitors for both business and pleasure following Thursday's grand opening of the 11,000 square foot Fremont Ballroom at the Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City.

The $11 million expansion of the casino's Stardust Event Center means Blue Chip now has more than 45,000 square feet of meeting space available to rent for conventions, banquets, wedding receptions and other events.

"This wasn't speculative," said Brenda Temple, Blue Chip vice president and general manager.

"Based on the tremendous demand that we've seen for meeting space at Blue Chip over the last several years, we knew we had a great opportunity to expand our meeting and event business — and now we can meet that opportunity."

The new ballroom, built by Berglund Construction of Chicago, can be divided into six smaller rooms of approximately 1,500 square feet each. The space features dark wood finishes, LED chandeliers, built-in projection systems and patterned carpeting.

Temple said the expansion will help Blue Chip continue attracting more and larger conventions and events, and, as a result, "more people than ever will come to Michigan City, and this entire community will benefit from new growth in visitation and in business."

"We never sit still here at Blue Chip. We're committed to the success of this community," Temple said. "And we know that we need to keep enhancing Blue Chip, and the experience that the guests have here, if we want to remain the leading entertainment and meetings destination facility in Northwest Indiana."

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She said the new ballroom also will help fill Blue Chip's 486 hotel rooms during the week when occupancy can fall as low as 60%, compared to 100% occupancy on weekends.

"It's that Monday through Friday block that really makes or breaks a casino," Temple said. "This provides us the ability to fill our hotel rooms midweek because people have conventions in the middle of the week; they don't have them on weekends."

Michigan City Mayor Ron Meer, who cut the ribbon to open the new ballroom alongside Temple and Bill Wright, Boyd Gaming senior vice president for operations, said the new ballroom will keep Michigan City front and center for events and conventions in the Region, the state and beyond.

"It will bring more people to Michigan City, and that's been the goal for the last eight years — to put Michigan City on the map," Meer said. 

"And Michigan City is on the map. If you go down to Indianapolis and you're talking about this area, they're talking about Michigan City, Indiana, these days, they're talking about Blue Chip Casino and the expansions here."

The new ballroom was the second ribbon cutting at the Blue Chip in as many months. The casino on Sept. 5 opened its FanDuel sports book just off the gaming floor, adjacent to The Game sports restaurant and bar.

"It's a new amenity that has gotten off to a really great start," Temple said. "Every week, we continue to see new customers coming through our doors to visit our FanDuel sports book, giving us the opportunity to introduce this beautiful property to more people than ever before."