French Lick Resort marked the start of construction on a $15.5 million expansion of its event center with a groundbreaking ceremony Monday morning.

The expansion, which is expected to open in January of 2015, will connect to the resort’s existing 109,000-square-foot conference and event center at 8670 W. Ind. 56.


New construction is expected to include more than 58,000 square feet.

The event center expansion will include eight breakout rooms and a 22,000-square-foot ballroom. The ballroom will include three sections so it can be configured in different ways.

Financing for the $15.5 million expansion includes $9.3 million available through the New Markets Tax Credit Program. That’s a U.S. government program that allows investors to receive credits on their federal income tax returns for putting money into projects located in low-income communities.

Minneapolis-based U.S. Bank provided New Markets Tax Credit funding for the event center expansion. French Lick Resort financed the rest of the project, according to Robert Santa, its chief financial officer.

“It opens up a whole new group of companies that we can serve,” said Steve Ferguson, chairman of French Lick Resort’s parent company, Bloomington-based Cook Group.