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Local officials interested in hosting NBA All-Star Game

February 12, 2010

It’s no Super Bowl, but the National Basketball Association All-Star Weekend is a worthy catch—especially for a city trying to boost its convention and tourism business.

Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association CEO Don Welsh is going to Dallas to check out the NBA All-Star festivities this weekend. And although Welsh said the trip has more to do with pleasure than business, local sports business sources tell the IBJ that a contingent of sports and tourism officials is considering making a bid to bring the big game here.

The probable parties certainly are no strangers. ICVA this year has put together a joint proposal with Pacers Sports & Entertainment, Los Angeles-based AEG and Philadelphia-based Global Spectrum to operate Conseco Fieldhouse along with the city's other professional sports and convention facilities. That consortium, local sports business experts said, also would have the wherewithal to bring the NBA All-Star Weekend to Indianapolis.

David Morton, president of locally based Sunrise Sports Group, said the timing is right to bring the game to Indianapolis.

“With Lucas Oil Stadium complete and the convention center expansion almost done, we’ve got the space to host this event,” said Morton, who also is in Dallas this weekend. “The All-Star Weekend is perfect for a city trying to showcase itself.”

Robert Vane, Mayor Greg Ballard’s deputy chief of staff, said any attempt to lure the All-Star Game would be led by the Pacers.

Pacers President Jim Morris acknowledged interest in bringing the All-Star Game to Indianapolis, but added, “it’s not an immediate concern.”

“I think someday down the trail, we’d like to do that again,” Morris said. “We’re pretty busy right now, but we have the facilities and the know-how, and we’d like to see it come back here.”

Indianapolis is indeed trying to showcase itself. Welsh has made a big push to market the city’s new airport, hotels and downtown connectivity, among other things, as his organization tries to significantly boost the city’s convention and tourism industry.

“This type of international event would be ideal to get Indianapolis out in front of a big, diverse audience,” Morton said.

Indianapolis hosted the NBA All-Star Weekend in the RCA Dome in 1985. But lots has changed since then, Morton said. Sports business experts say the event’s economic impact has more than tripled since then, and international exposure in places like Europe and Asia has gone through the roof.

Lucas Oil Stadium likely would host the game if it were held locally, but Conseco Fieldhouse, widely considered one of the best basketball venues in the world, would be ideal for the rookie game, slam-dunk contest and three-point shooting contest, Morton said.

Last year Phoenix officials announced the February event brought the southwest city more than $40 million in direct visitor spending. In 2008, New Orleans officials reported $50 million in visitor spending from the event.

This year, Dallas is projecting a crowd of more than 90,000 to attend the game in the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium, and more than 1,800 media members from around the world have been credentialed to cover the event.

“That kind of exposure is difficult to buy,” Morton said. “It would be a tremendous event for Indianapolis on a number of levels.”

Los Angeles will host the All-Star Game next year, and the NBA will announce the host of the 2012 All-Star game in June during the NBA Finals.

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