Indy's non-pursuit of NBA all-star game remains mystery

February 5, 2013
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The lease agreement the Indiana Pacers and Capital Improvement Board finalized in 1999 for the newly built Conseco Fieldhouse could not have been clearer.

Both sides badly wanted to land an NBA All-Star Game. It is right there in the lease between the Pacers and CIB that locals would go after this high-profile event.

So what happened?

After reading a column penned by IBJ Managing Editor Greg Andrews for this week’s print edition, the answer to that question is as mystifying and elusive as ever. And I’ve covered the business of sports here at IBJ for nearly 15 years.

The last serious effort to net the NBA All-Star Game was spearheaded by Don Welsh when he was president of the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association (now Visit Indy). In 2010, he led a recon mission to Dallas—that year’s host city—to see what it would take for Indianapolis to host the glitzy event.

Welsh’s effort, for unknown reasons, went cold quickly. Then Welsh departed for Chicago the following year and the effort has not been revived.

Fourteen years after the Pacers-CIB agreement for the Fieldhouse, the 1985 NBA All-Star Game, held at the newly built Hoosier Dome, remains the only all-star game the league has held in this city—a curious omission given Indianapolis’ propensity for landing big-time events.

Odder still, no one locally can give a good reason why Indianapolis hasn’t landed the game or isn’t going after it.

The NBA’s All-Star Weekend starts Friday and features a variety of events, including slam-dunk and three-point-shooting contests, leading up to Sunday’s game. A study commissioned by the Orlando Magic found that last year’s festivities in Orlando had an economic impact of $95 million, including $56 million in direct spending.

An estimated 37,000 visitors from outside the county spent an average of $1,020 during their visits, and NBA players alone dropped $440,000, according to the study.

Those are big numbers. And big numbers need to be put in perspective. Direct visitor spending for the 2012 Super Bowl in Indianapolis was $175 million, according to a study commissioned by the local host committee. A Final Four delivers $40 million in direct visitor spending to Indianapolis, according to Visit Indy.

Did you catch that? An NBA All-Star Game could deliver $16 million more in direct visitor spending than a Final Four.

Visit Indy and CIB officials seem to be at a loss for why this event hasn’t been pursued more aggressively. Pacers President Jim Morris said the Pacers would love to host it, but Bankers Life Fieldhouse’s schedule is simply packed.

Really? Too crowded for an event with this type of economic impact?

Apparently, it’s not just the Fieldhouse schedule that’s crowded.

“Sometimes, even when we might be available, hotel rooms might not be available” because of sporting events or conventions held elsewhere downtown," said Rick Fuson, the Pacers chief operating officer.

I’m guessing that’s a problem Welsh’s replacement at Visit Indy, Leonard Hoops, would like to wrestle with. February isn’t one of Indianapolis’ busiest convention months.

Despite competition from other cities, if Indianapolis throws its hat in the ring, it surely will be able to work its way into the hosting schedule, said David Morton, president of locally based Sunrise Sports Group. He sees Lucas Oil Stadium, which proved its mettle as a basketball venue when it staged the 2010 NCAA men’s Final Four, as the ideal location.

The NBA has gone both big and small with past venues. The 2010 game was in Cowboys Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, while this year’s game is at Toyota Center, home of the Houston Rockets.

There’s one consideration Pacers officials aren’t likely to address publicly. In recent years, some NBA all-star games have been marred by violence and other mayhem. So the security costs would be considerable.

But this seems surmountable for a city that has become known as one of the most creative nationwide for hosting sporting events.

Fuson—who as a new Pacers employee helped ready the Hoosier Dome for the 1985 game—fondly recalls that event. He said larger isn’t necessarily better. He called Bankers Life Fieldhouse the best basketball venue in the country. And he said its appeal has only grown with the installation this season of a massive high-definition scoreboard.

“Our new scoreboard makes a significant difference about the NBA wanting to be there, too,” Fuson said.

So again, I ask, what are we waiting on?

  • You'd be surprised
    Can't say definitively that hotel room availability is the roadblock, but February has actually been one of the busier convention months in recent years here in Indy - not even counting the SB year.
    • ?
      I am very skeptical that an NBA allstar game would bring in more money to our city than a Final Four. VERY. It doesn't make sense. It ain't what it used to be, in terms of popularity.
      • smells bad
        BLF schedule is packed? Really? So did I miss something in all the reporting about how the CIB needed to give $10m to support BLF? I thought then the article said Pacer games, the circus and a few concerts just weren't enough to sustain BLF? Is there a place where these financial statements are available?
      • but why not have both
        Johnnyb: I wont argue your point. maybe Final Four is better, but why not have both? they would not conflict.
      • NBA Allstar game music world
        The game cannot come to Indy no more because the city of Indianapolis and state is on the blacklist in theusic game. The power structure does not want no shone on the Indianapolis local music scene.

      Post a comment to this blog

      We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
      You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
      Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
      No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
      We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

      Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

      Sponsored by
      1. Gay marriage is coming, whether or not these bigots and zealots like it or not. We must work to ensure future generations remember the likes of Greg Zoeller like they do the racists of our shame.

      2. Perhaps a diagram of all the network connections of all politicians to their supporters and those who are elite/wealthy and how they have voted on bills that may have benefited their supporters. The truth may hurt, but there are no non-disclosures in government.

      3. I'm sure these lawyers were having problems coming up with any non-religious reason to ban same-sex marriage. I've asked proponents of this ban the question many times and the only answers I have received were religious reasons. Quite often the reason had to do with marriage to a pet or marriage between a group even though those have nothing at all to do with this. I'm looking forward to less discrimination in our state soon!

      4. They never let go of the "make babies" argument. It fails instantaneously because a considerable percentage of heterosexual marriages don't produce any children either. Although if someone wants to pass a law that any couple, heterosexual or homosexual, cannot be legally married (and therefore not utilize all legal, financial, and tax benefits that come with it) until they have produced a biological child, that would be fun to see as a spectator. "All this is a reflection of biology," Fisher answered. "Men and women make babies, same-sex couples do not... we have to have a mechanism to regulate that, and marriage is that mechanism." The civil contract called marriage does NOTHING to regulate babymaking, whether purposefully or accidental. These conservatives really need to understand that sex education and access to birth control do far more to regulate babymaking in this country. Moreover, last I checked, same-sex couples can make babies in a variety of ways, and none of them are by accident. Same-sex couples often foster and adopt the children produced by the many accidental pregnancies from mixed-sex couples who have failed at self-regulating their babymaking capabilities.

      5. Every parent I know with kids from 6 -12 has 98.3 on its car radio all the time!! Even when my daughter isn't in the car I sometimes forget to change stations. Not everybody wants to pay for satellite radio. This will be a huge disappointment to my 9 year old. And to me - there's so many songs on the radio that I don't want her listening to.