Not-for-profit aims to unite city's sports-related businesses

April 19, 2012

A new not-for-profit looking to connect Indianapolis-area sports-minded businesses is already attracting dozens of members.

Even before its first major event April 25 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Sports Circle Indy has signed up 40 dues-paying members, and co-founder Ken Ungar thinks that number will grow to well over 300 in the near future.

“I think 300 members is a very conservative number,” said Ungar, a former Indianapolis Motor Speedway executive who now runs Indianapolis-based branding and marketing firm US Sports Advisors. “We know there’s a very strong demand for this type of organization. We think we could have 200 corporate members alone.”

Late last year, Ungar, along with Faegre Baker Daniels attorney Amie Peele Carter and St. Vincent Sports Performance Executive Director Ralph Reiff, brainstormed the idea for the organization.

“We realized that there were a lot of sports organizations here that look outward, that look to bring sports entities and events from outside the area into the area,” Ungar said. “But there was not an organization that help sports-related businesses here connect through education, networking, communication and advocacy.”

Sports Circle Indy organizers held a meeting in December at Faegre Baker Daniels' office to float the idea to the local sports community.

“When 70 people representing organizations like the NCAA, Pacers, Indians and USA Track & Field showed up, we knew we had something,” Ungar said.

Since then, Sports Circle Indy has added Indiana Fever Chief Operating Officer Kelly Krauskopf, Horizon League executive and local sports columnist Bill Benner, USATF executive Aron McGuire and iHoops Director of Finance and Administration Ronda Hite as board members.

The group offers two levels of corporate membership, priced at $250 or $500 per year. Individual memberships are $60 and student memberships $25.

While there are sports business groups that focus on networking or marketing, there are few others that have Sports Circle Indy's broad mission, Ungar said.

“There’s no other organization that I know of quite like this one,” he said.

David Morton, president of Sunrise Sports Group, a local sports marketing consultancy, said the organization is already creating considerable buzz in the local sports business scene.

The Indiana Sports Corp., Morton said, holds networking events occasionally, but it’s time to have a group dedicated to that endeavor.

“This organization definitely has a place in our industry and community,” Morton said. “Networking is critically important for sports-related businesses and I think it’s important to have an organization focused on that.”

Morton said if Sports Circle Indy accomplishes its mission of bringing businesses together for networking and other common needs, it could be a big boost to the local sports business economy.

“Everyone in this business is so busy doing what they’re doing, we almost have to stop ourselves to meet new people,” Morton said. “If this organization can facilitate that, that’s a good thing.”

The organization plans to conduct regular seminars, educational events and networking opportunities. It also hopes to serve as an information clearinghouse of sorts for the local sports business community. The organization plans to produce a directory of area sports business and a calendar of sports-business related events.

Sports Circle Indy is in the process of planning a major event for 2013 that will feature a “prominent national sports figure,” Ungar said.

“We want to hold high-profile speaking events like you see with the Economic Club of Indianapolis,” Ungar said.

Sport Circle Indy’s first meeting on April 25 will serve to further introduce people to the new organization’s mission and plans, and to introduce people in sports business to one another. Ungar expects 70 people at next week’s meeting.

“There are a tremendous number of sports organizations in town beyond the Pacers, Colts and the Speedway, and quite frankly, not a lot of people know that,” Ungar said. “This is a unique opportunity for sports businesses themselves to get together to get to know one another.”



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