View Full Version : How Professional Sports and arena changed Indianapolis' image



metro
01-08-2008, 09:02 AM
How team, building changed Indianapolis image
By Steve Lackmeyer
Main Street


Faced with rising opposition to a March 4 vote on whether to expand Ford Center, the folks at City Hall are once again drawing from the history of another city Indianapolis to make their case.

Indianapolis was the original inspiration for Oklahoma City's Metropolitan Area Projects. The story has been told time and again how then-Oklahoma City Mayor Ron Norick, desperate to end years of malaise, visited Indianapolis and saw how a thriving downtown was at the heart of the city's resurgence.

Sure enough, 15 years later, it's also well-known that MAPS paid off handsomely for not just downtown but all of Oklahoma City. But it had some shortcomings one of them being Ford Center.

The implications of the March 4 vote which would raise about $125 million for the arena will help determine whether the southern fringe of downtown is the next to be pulled out of a decades-old blight.

So what is being e-mailed by David Holt, aide to Mayor Mick Cornett? It's the sort of article, totally removed from the Ford Center question, that couldn't be better timed for the tax ballot's supporters. Headlined "How a building and a team changed a city's image, Indianapolis Star writer Bob Kravitz reflects on the soon-to-be-razed RCA Dome.

He reflects on how Maryland Street, home to a much smaller convention center and a brand new dome in 1984, was littered with empty lots and plagued with prostitutes.

"Today, that stretch is home to Simon headquarters, the Marriott, the Hyatt and the new J.W. Marriott, which is under construction, Kravitz wrote.

"The eventual demise of the dome won't likely inspire a lot of tears around town. But before the Colts play their final regular-season home game there Sunday against Tennessee, it should be recalled and celebrated how the dome was the centerpiece in the renaissance of Indianapolis.

The story goes on to remind readers that Indianapolis had no team waiting to become a tenant at the RCA Dome. The city's leaders simply believed they could revitalize downtown Indianapolis by emphasizing the city as an amateur sports hub.

Oklahoma City, by comparison, has the NBA SuperSonics waiting in the wings to move to a revamped Ford Center. And after months of planning for the area south of Ford Center, known as "Core to Shore, Cornett and others have high hopes of extending downtown Oklahoma City's resurgence south to the Oklahoma River.

Nobody can prove that the renovation will really boost the area's fortunes. The argument for urban revitalization tied to arenas and major league sports is anecdotal, and not every arena deal has resulted in a 21st century urban utopia.

But the southern fringe of downtown won't be hidden by the Interstate 40 Crosstown Expressway much longer. Construction is ramping up on the new alignment, and City Hall is quietly competing with private speculators on properties that were once considered hopeless slum land.

The plans for a revamped Ford Center call for a dramatic new entrance facing a boulevard that will replace the crumbling Crosstown Expressway. That boulevard is being planned as the new major entrance to downtown but is surrounded by blight.

Bricktown merchants have long credited Ford Center with boosting business when the arena is filled by the likes of The Eagles and Paul McCartney. City planners believe the same boost will drive redevelopment south of the arena.

What's certain is somebody is going to determine what the future is for south downtown. Voters will get their say on March 4.

betts
01-08-2008, 10:23 AM
I think it's more than south downtown that will be affected. I think Bricktown needs more events to pull people downtown and into restaurants there to stay alive, and I worry that we will see a resurgence of the "malaise" Ron Norick saw here if we don't get an NBA team. I never considered moving downtown until I started going down for Hornets games, when downtown felt electric with all the people there. The Big Twelve Tournament had the same effect, but we'll be lucky to get it every other year, and it's just six days. Maybe if we build a new convention center and can attract more and bigger conventions the same thing could happen, but that's still years away, and even that is going to require the momentum of seeing growth in Oklahoma City. I see my perception of other cities being so much determined by what is happening in them, and professional sports gives cities so much more exposure than almost anything else. Hartford, CT or Charlotte? Which sounds like a better place to visit? Omaha or Oklahoma City? If we've got a professional team, I think people's answer would be Oklahoma City because they see us on tv, and they see bylines from our city in their sports pages. Otherwise, I think most people would ask "What's the difference?" My answer would have to be, "Not much."

Nixon7
01-11-2008, 03:19 PM
Hartford, CT or Charlotte? Which sounds like a better place to visit? Omaha or Oklahoma City? If we've got a professional team, I think people's answer would be Oklahoma City because they see us on tv, and they see bylines from our city in their sports pages. Otherwise, I think most people would ask "What's the difference?" My answer would have to be, "Not much."

Excellent example. Git R Dun, OKC!!!