Can all-star hoops game survive?

June 18, 2008
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After the Indiana vs. Kentucky All-Star basketball games at Conseco Fieldhouse June 13, drew only 5,097 spectators, some within the local hoops community are calling for changes.

Sports marketers said moving the game from Saturday to Friday hurt attendance. Others suggested the game needs to be moved to Hinkle Fieldhouse, or another more cozy venue. Broader advertising and hiring an event coordinator to oversee the annual contests are also ideas being floated to revive the games.

Pete Smith, the coach at Guerin Catholic High School in Noblesville, is stepping down after one year as the game’s director. He said his successor will face significant challenges in breathing new life into the game which drew more than 13,000 as recently as 2000.

David Morton, president of local sports marketing firm Sunrise Sports Group, thinks the Indianapolis Star, which runs the game, needs to change its mindset to put the all-star game back on its feet.

“They need to hire an event director to help guide them through their challenges with this," Morton said. “They need to start by broadening their advertising and marketing and find sponsors that will be active promoters and put this game back on solid footing."

What changes do you think are needed to help this storied annual event survive?
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  • I think they should have it at New Castle Indiana and New Castle Kentucky both have there states biggest gyms
  • New Castle is interesting. I was thinking Southport, but New Castle is very interesting. Though I hate to see Indianapolis lose out on the game.
  • Before reading these comments, I thought the Hinkle proposal was best. I now agree with New Castle. H.S. basketball is still a top attraction there. There's too much going on in Indy any more.
  • I think they should only play one game each year. With all the activities people have going on at that time of year, we should limit it to one game which rotates each year between KY and IN
  • Yesterday, I had the pleasure of being a guest on The Drive w/ JMV on 1260 AM/WNDE as he had a two-day discussion on this very thing.

    I think it's a large task to give any one or two individuals the brunt of the responsibility to promote the game and get the crowds there used to be. A team of individuals needs to tackle this issue.

    With so many other entertainment options, it's tough to compete with concerts, movies, malls and the like in the month of June.

    One idea could be to move the games to one or two weekends after the state finals.

    All-Star voting could change as well. Perhaps have open fan voting from the start of the season through the end of the regular season. Students and athletic departments might get involved in promoting the game and their athletes this way.

    Coaches and media also can vote, separately, at the end of the season. Tally the votes and the top 12-15 kids make the team, with perhaps coaches/media counting for 2/3rds the total.

    This might eliminate some of the workouts, team dinners and pageantry associated with the history of the All-Star game, but it may be outdated anyway.

    Announce Mr. Basketball at the state finals and the rest of the teams the following morning. The games follow in a couple weeks.

    What this does is cut down on practice time - but that could be a good thing. Let the players play; all-star games aren't about set out of bounds plays and scripted offenses. These games are about showcasing the future college and professional talent of each state. Give it some spontaneity and make it less scripted.

    Make the whole thing a community event in both states. Hold a pregame party downtown, with live music, food and giveaways from corporate sponsors. Give people a reason to feel like they can't miss it.

    Are there flaws with these ideas? Certainly. I wouldn't pretend to know what's best or say this is the way to go...but to revive this series, we must think outside of the box and give people a sense of involvement and entertainment.
  • Mike P. has an interesting point. At first I thought losing this game would be a big blow for Indianapolis. But maybe the city does have too much going on. If a city/region like New Castle could really get behind the event, that might give it the boost it needs. Still not sure, though, about taking the game outside of the heart of the state.
  • Wow. As the Marketing Director at The Indianapolis Star and the one responsible for producing the games, I am amazed at the amount of misinformation posted here. If
  • Wow. As the Marketing Director at The Indianapolis Star and the one responsible for producing the games, I am amazed at the amount of misinformation posted here. If some within the local hoops community are calling for changes, they might want to contact me. The Indiana All-Stars program has been evolving for the 68 years that The Star has produced it. Each year we evaluate the program and make changes. The program today hardly looks like the program of 15 years ago.

    The Indiana games were played on a Friday this year because we condensed the program to one week to accommodate the players' needs to report to their D1 schools almost immediately upon graduating from high school. We also have to work around potential scheduling conflicts with the Fever and the NBA playoffs when selecting a date at Conseco. I've heard nothing but positive comments about going to one week. The players liked it, the parents liked it. It was a change that was key to the survival of the event.

    I don't know Mr. Morton, but I suggest that he do his research before making recommendations. The Star has an entire staff that works on the Games. Rather than one event coordinator, we have three event managers, plus graphic designers, media buyers, volunteers, etc. In the metro area, we advertise the Games in print, online and on the radio, and in past years we've also utilized TV and outdoor. Our grassroots efforts include press releases and posters in the players' hometowns. That's about as broad as you can get.

    As far as sponsors, the 2008 games had 10 sponsors and another 10 supporters/donors. They help us keep expenses to a minimum, which is a big reason why The Star has been able to produce the games for 68 years. We would like more sponsors, but this market has a significant number of teams and events competing for a limited pool of sponsor dollars.

    Traditional annual events often hit lulls. There were many in this city who believed the State Fair and Indy 500 were washed up after downturns in attendance. I believe both events are now on the upswing.

    Attendance at Indiana's All-Star doubleheader with Kentucky began declining when we introduced the Exhibition Games with the Junior All-Stars (1996). Those exhibition games have a total attendance of anywhere from 2,000 to 5,000. Add those figures to the 5,000 to 8,000 who attend the Fieldhouse games, and you're back to the attendance totals we had in the early 90s.

    Brian Moore has some great suggestions, and those are the very things we look at every year. Playing the games earlier in the year creates challenges because of NCAA rules about the number of all-star games a high school player can participate in. Selecting a team based solely on votes rarely yields a competitive team (i.e. too many guards, no perimeter shooters). And just try telling a coach to play a competitive game without any practices. He'll be happy to tell you where you can put it. But we look at those same types of options all the time.

    The surest way to help this storied annual event survive is to attend the games. Show these kids that they matter to the community, that the All-Star Games are important. If they still are.

    Jennifer Gombach, Market Development Director, The Indianapolis Star
    jennifer.gombach@indystar.com
  • All very good, but if the best players in the state were actually attending Indiana or Purdue.....well there is your attendance. Enough said?
  • Right, Zapp, and since the teams that seem to care about recruiting Indiana All-Stars (Butler and IUPUI) don't have the same kind of attendance as the big 3 (IU, Purdue, and ND - note that only 1 All-Star is committed to IU and none to Purdue and ND), perhaps its time for hoops loving Hoosiers to change their loyalties. Butler and IUPUI play exciting ball, and don't have the punkish, glory attitude that is especially displayed in Bloomington. If we all would take in the All Star games and get to know these kids, perhaps we would be more in tune with the schools that care enough about good ball and recruiting these players. Go Butler and IUPUI!!!
  • Gee, did you forget that the girls play too? There are two girls going to Purdue, including Miss B'ball; one going to IU, one going to Indiana State; and one going to Butler.

    So of 28 players...13 are going to Indiana Schools.
  • Some say girl's basketball doesn't count. Look at the crowds. Great for the girls that play, but not much for the fans, so it seems
  • Hmmm...seems that lately the Fever is drawing about the same crowd as the Pacers. And they're better role models. Maybe the fans need to re-evalutate what constitues good basktball.
  • While it's true that the Fever's attendance is up more than 30 percent this year, it's still several thousand per game short of the Pacers. But I certainly wouldn't say the girls' game doesn't count. It has its following.
  • Hi Jennifer Just wanted to know if you recieved my fax fo the gift card I won. Thanks Teresa

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