What’s Next for the Canal

The New Downtown: Daydreams about the waterway’s future.

This article is part of Indianapolis Monthly’s The New Downtown package, which includes a guide to five hotspots, a few big city problems, and a look at what’s next for the city. For more content on navigating the new downtown, click here.

According to Bob Schultz at Downtown Indy—tasked with managing and marketing the city’s portion of the canal—daydreams about the waterway’s potential might not be so wild and crazy after all.


Welcomed, as long as they follow rules (passive asks, no impeding the right-of-way). There might be more spots for them at the April 24 Canal Awakens, a new festival to celebrate the opening of the season.


Fundraising is underway for a fancy “playspace” with climbing structures and slides at the Walnut Street basin, right off the Cultural Trail.

Outdoor Movies

Whether floating below Buggs Temple or suspended from the 10th Street bridge, a screen likely will be erected later this year in the north basin (already terraced for prime viewing) to test waterfront films.

Beer Garden

There are some strings attached—temporary alcohol permits, access issues, ID checks—but Schultz says a space for sipping cold ones could be on tap in 2016.

Floating Bar

The Downtown Indy team has had discussions with Old World Gondoliers owner Jeff Hutson about expanding his offerings—including a possible booze cruise. The canal’s only four feet deep, though, so the vessel needs to be light.


OneAmerica’s heating and cooling system drains into the canal, and that warm water makes ice tricky. Schultz says they’ve talked to vendors about rink options, though, such as a floating dam to chill the water.

Paddleboard Rental

Safety issues—say, falling and hitting concrete—make authorization unlikely. (Some board-owners drop in anyway.)

The HotTug

The canal might not be deep enough to handle this Dutch invention—a wood-heated floating hot tub now being sold stateside—which likely would sink and scrape the bottom.

Public Swimming

No lifeguards, no chlorination, no zoning—swimming at your own risk is too risky for the city.