City ready to launch bid for USA Basketball

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Indianapolis is poised to launch a bid to attract USA Basketball's headquarters from its Colorado Springs home.

The not-for-profit national governing body for men's and women's basketball in the United States recently put out a request for proposals for a new headquarters city.

USA Basketball officials declined to divulge the demands listed in the RFP, but confirmed that bids are due by the end of the year, with a decision to be made in early 2008.

Although Indiana Sports Corp. President Susan Williams was not available to comment, ISC spokesman John Dedman said, "There is an RFP out there, and we're looking at it."

Sources close to the ISC said local officials are doing more than looking at it.

"They're seriously considering making a hard run at this," said a source with ISC ties. "If they carry through, I think they'll be a strong contender."

Several factors make the city a good location for USA Basketball's headquarters, industry experts said.

The city's central location and strong reputation for hosting events, proximity to the NCAA and National Federation of State High School Associations–both key USA Basketball members–and access to the Indiana Pacers' brain trust, widely acclaimed in hoops circles at every level, are all factors sources said put the city in favor with USA Basketball officials.

And the city, which is already home to USA Track & Field, USA Gymnastics, USA Diving and U.S. Synchronized Swimming, has proven to be a successful home for national governing bodies.

USA Basketball plans to unveil the parameters of the bid and which cities are jousting for the headquarters within a week, said USA Basketball spokesman Craig Miller.

Officials in Colorado Springs indicated they would likely bid to retain the national governing body, which has been housed there since 1979.

"We're comfortable in Colorado Springs, but you always have to look at what's best for the organization," Miller said. "That's what this is all about."

Colorado Springs officials are in a panic, and not just about USA Basketball's future. When the U.S. Olympic Committee said earlier this year that it is considering moving from the 34-acre Colorado Springs campus it has inhabited since 1978, it raised questions about the future of several national sports governing bodies located there.

Other governing bodies that could be displaced if the USOC bolts include cycling, boxing, badminton, tae kwon do, weight lifting and judo. It's not clear if the city is pursuing any of those organizations.

USA Basketball, with 13 full-time employees, would appear to be a relatively small catch for the city, but sports marketers said the organization's size is deceiving.

"One of the most compelling aspects of any [national governing body] is the committee meetings it hosts," said Bob Schultz, Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association spokesman. "But the high-profile nature of USA Basketball and its activities raises the benefit to the headquarters city to another level."

USA Basketball handles any selection or fielding of a team that competes in FIBA international competition, including men's and women's World Championships and Olympics.

The organization also conducts numerous annual committee meetings along with players' and coaches' clinics and training camps for players from youth to Olympians.

"I think it's safe to say this community would have some interest in attracting USA Basketball's headquarters," said Jack Swarbrick, ISC executive committee member and the local organization's former chairman.

One thing that could be a big boost for Indianapolis' effort is backing from the NCAA, which has a keen interest in basketball, Swarbrick said.

"Basketball is of great significance to the NCAA for sports and business reasons," he said. "If the NCAA viewed [the relocation of USA Basketball to Indianapolis] as a positive, presumably they'd encourage the community to pursue it, and that could have a considerable influence on the process."

The NCAA and USA Basketball have several close ties. NCAA Executive Vice President Tom Jernstedt was USA Basketball president from 2000-2004, and hired the organization's current executive director, Jim Tooley, in 2000. Several NCAA officials hold high-ranking committee positions within USA Basketball.

NCAA officials declined to comment for this article.

Not seeking USOC HQ

Meanwhile, local officials said the city is not in the running to land the U.S. Olympic Committee headquarters.

"That's a derby that doesn't make sense to get into," Swarbrick said. "There are at least three logical communities for the USOC and what it does."

Swarbrick said those cities are Colorado Springs, Los Angeles and Chicago, where USOC officials were shopping for real estate earlier this month.

Colorado Springs and Los Angeles are good spots due to the USOC's significant presence in those cities. Being located in a major media market, like L.A., doesn't hurt, he added.

The USOC has an outpost in L.A., where the 1984 Summer Games were held, and has a major training center in nearby Chula Vista for athletes participating in nine sports including archery, rowing, canoe/kayak, soccer, softball, field hockey, tennis, track and field, and cycling.

Chicago, which is pursuing the 2016 Summer Olympics, makes sense because of its central location and easy international access. Its status as an Olympic bid city is a bonus.

Unlike the USA Basketball's open-bid process, USOC officials have launched a bid process by invitation only. While USOC officials confirmed they have asked several cities–including Colorado Springs and Chicago–to bid for its headquarters, they declined to specify what other locales have been contacted.

Not everyone is convinced Indianapolis shouldn't pursue the USOC headquarters.

"Indianapolis in many ways surpasses what Chicago has to offer," said David Morton, principal for Sunrise Sports Group, an Indianapolis-based sports marketing consultancy. "Chicago is a spread-out municipality, with a higher cost of living and far worse traffic.

"Chicago doesn't have the sports-minded partnerships in place on a number of levels that Indianapolis has.

"Indianapolis has an Olympic-caliber velodrome, natatorium, and track and field venue, not to mention the headquarters of several key national governing bodies," Morton said. "Indianapolis, not Chicago, used to be called the amateur sports capital of the world."

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