SPORTS Bill Benner: Stadium proves dreams sometimes come true

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In subsequent columns, I also stated that we needed a regional solution to the funding problem, and proposed a regional tax for the counties contiguous to Marion in which they could keep a share of the proceeds for their own capital projects.

Finally, within days of last November’s election, I observed that it would require a bipartisan effort led by both Republican Governor Mitch Daniels and Democratic Mayor Bart Peterson to work this thing through the Legislature.

I’m glad-overjoyed-everyone took my advice, and presume my consulting fee check is in the mail.

Just kidding.

As several legislators predicted to me, the stadium and convention center expansion went to virtually the last hours of the General Assembly’s session before all the pieces were finally assembled.

But we have as I had hoped: the most significant capital project since the construction of the RCA Dome. So, sometime this summer, dignitaries wielding silver spades will turn the dirt and site preparation-then construction-will commence on the project that will change the city’s skyscape, maintain its leadership in the realm of sports, and create thousands of permanent and temporary jobs.

The price, mostly, is anywhere from a few pennies to a few dollars being added to restaurant and bar tabs in and around Indy, plus the anticipated visitor support through hotel and rental car tariffs. All in all, it’s virtually painless, and a small price to pay given the enormous return on the investment.

By 2008, we will have a state-of-the-art multi-use stadium and the likely promise of a future Super Bowl, along with the next round of Final Fours destined for the city: men’s in 2010, and women’s in 2011.

Think about this. In the space of just a few years, Indianapolis will host a Super Bowl, men’s and women’s Final Fours and-let’s don’t ever take these for granted-the annual speed parade of the Indianapolis 500, Brickyard 400 and U.S. Grand Prix.

It won’t be the Naptown, India-no-place or Cornfield With Lights I can remember.

By 2010, we also will have an expanded convention center and, I believe, a large convention hotel, perhaps where Pan Am Plaza is now. We also will have a new, larger and more user-friendly airport and expanded downtown living opportunities, including, I hope, high-rise towers where Market Square Arena once stood. In the meantime, the cultural and arts offerings have heated up like never before. My hometown has positioned itself for the next 25 years and beyond. Yes, you will continue to read in the coming days and months of potential sticking points. Nonetheless, the hard work has been accomplished. My congratulations, and gratitude, to all who made it happen.

Benner is a former sports columnist for The Indianapolis Star. His column appears weekly.To comment on this column, go to IBJ Forum at www.ibj.comor send e-mail to

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