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SPORTS: Venue menu could be as limitless as the sky above it

September 15, 2008

Of this, that and the other while pondering the fact that the Indianapolis Colts have not yet been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs:

So I'm sitting in Lucas Oil Stadium before that seasonopening loss to the Bears and my mind wanders, not to the present, but to the future.

Yes, the stadium already is home to the Colts as well as upcoming NCAA basketball, including a men's regional next spring, the men's Final Four in 2010, and the Women's Final Four in 2011-and let's not forget the 2012 Super Bowl.

But here are other entrees I'd like to see on the menu someday:

An NCAA Frozen Four, the final four of men's hockey. As we've seen with portable-rink technology that has allowed for college and NHL games to move into non-traditional venues-specifically, football stadiums-there's no reason Indianapolis couldn't pursue a Frozen Four, especially when it could deliver a venue that could easily seat 40,000 or more for that event.

Ditto for the NCAA's soccer championship. Or lacrosse.

At some point, Indy also should begin to pursue another Olympic swimming trials, which has outgrown the Natatorium at IUPUI. The 2004 trials took place in portable pools built in a parking lot in Long Beach, Calif. This year's trials were in Omaha's Qwest Center, again using portable, 50-meter pools. Imagine the spectacle of a future trials in front of swimming's largest crowd ... ever.

Speaking of Olympic trials, I'd also love to see wrestling come back. The 2004 trials in the RCA Dome were a tremendous event.

OK, at this moment, America probably could get by without another bowl game. But bowl games come and bowl games go. And sometimes they move from one city to another. Given the right sponsorship/television situation, there's no reason Indy couldn't present itself as a desirable city to host a postseason game. Toronto has one. Detroit has one. Someday, Indianapolis should have one. He doesn't know it, but superpromoter Ray Compton is being assigned by me to the task.

How about a reincarnation of the old Hoosier Classic? For you youngsters in the IBJ crowd, Hinkle (then Butler) Fieldhouse was once home to a doubleheader that included Indiana, Purdue, Notre Dame and Butler. Let's make that a December staple again, in either Lucas Oil Stadium or Conseco Fieldhouse. In fact, let's involve Ball State, IUPUI, Indiana State, Valparaiso and/or Evansville and turn it into a quadrupleheader.

The 1991 World Gymnastics Championships in the Dome were an outstanding success. Let's bring them back (minus the bellicose Bela Karolyi if possible).

More than one Super Bowl.

Of course, this little wish list would be in addition to the regular run of Circle City Classics, high school football, motocross and other sports events that made the Dome home.

Open that roof. The imagination is as limitless as the sky above it.

With the addition of Katie Douglas and Lin Dunn's coaching, I believed this would be the season the Indiana Fever would make their strongest run at a WNBA title. From their marketing campaign, they obviously did, too. But the Fever have never quite meshed and will enter the playoffs a decided underdog. With the WNBA's bestof-three format, anything can happen. Let's hope it does.

He rose to the top of the world in a tough, brutal sport, but never lost touch with who he was, where he came from and the men-and his wife, Delores-who helped get him there. So bravo to former light heavyweight champion and Olympic bronze medalist Marvin Johnson for being named to boxing's Hall of Fame. Somewhere in the heavens, his trainer, Champ Chaney, is smiling.

Finally, I couldn't be more pleased to see that cyclist Lance Armstrong, inspiration to so many cancer survivors, is making a comeback with the intent of winning an eighth Tour de France. In doing so, he wants to continue the fight against the killer disease while debunking the cynics who persist in the belief his triumphs were aided by doping. If anyone can do this at age 37, it's Armstrong.



Benner is associate director of communications for the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association and a former sports columnist for The Indianapolis Star. His column appears weekly.To comment on this column, send e-mail to bbenner@ibj.com. Benner also has a blog, www.indyinsights.com.
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