Indianapolis prepares for NBA All-Star 2024 hosting gig

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City workers have decked out downtown with signs and banners in preparation for NBA All-Star Weekend. (IBJ photo/Mickey Shuey)

Hosting an NBA All-Star Weekend is a complicated and costly endeavor, but Indianapolis officials say the city and its civic partners can pull it off more easily than can many locales.

Why? Event venues in Indianapolis being so centrally located certainly plays a role, but the city’s experience in hosting and funding these types of large-scale sporting events also pays off.

Consider last year’s event in Salt Lake City, which drew funds from a variety of sources. The event cost the city an estimated $10 million, according to Utah Business. The Utah Sports Commission contributed $3 million of that, Salt Lake City allocated $1 million (though officials say just $500,000 was spent), and Salt Lake County kicked in $500,000. The remaining funds, an estimated $5.5 million, came from the Utah Jazz and members of the hosting alliance.

In Indianapolis, the event is projected to cost at least $12 million, but that funding will come from primarily one source: the Indiana Sports Corp.’s Indy Championship Fund. Additional support as needed will be provided by existing city funding and Downtown Indy Inc.

The Indy Championship Fund has paid for what the NBA calls All-Star legacy projects and will pay for general operational costs, Dan Gliot, spokesman for Indiana Sports Corp., told IBJ in an email. Twenty-four legacy projects to commemorate All-Star Weekend and invest in community organizations cost $50,000 each, for a total of $1.2 million, while 24 scholarships at $2,400 apiece will take up an additional $57,600.

That leaves $10.7 million for operations. Danny Lopez, spokesman for the NBA All-Star 2024 Host Committee, declined to detail those costs.

The funding comes from the Indiana Sports Corp.’s push, which began in 2017, to raise $25 million for three big sports events: the NBA All-Star Weekend, the NCAA College Football Playoff National Championship in 2022 and the 2021 Final Four. Ultimately, the fund raised $26 million from more than 50 corporations, foundations and individuals.

Funding acumen is but one advantage.

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett’s chief of staff, Dan Parker, told IBJ that Indianapolis is uniquely equipped to host the event due to the regularity of tournaments and conventions here and the close proximity of event venues.

Last year, Parker and other Indianapolis All-Star Weekend planners visited Salt Lake City during its time as host.

“They put on a great event, and it was interesting to see how it’s done someplace else,” Parker told IBJ. “But I feel confident that people are going to be very, very impressed with the weekend that’s put on by the [Indianapolis] host committee.”

Unlike in Salt Lake City—where the city and county both contributed money—funds are “built into” the city budget here for big events, in the form of overtime pay for police and city staff, Parker said.

If agencies such as the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and the Department of Public Works go over their budgeted amounts of overtime, the city would consider a supplemental appropriation, “but we’re not expecting that,” he said.

Of course, pulling off such an event still requires collaboration among various organizations, whether they help foot the bill or not. Chris Gahl, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for tourism not-for-profit Visit Indy, compared the event to when Indianapolis hosted the 2012 Super Bowl. Both are multiday events that put Indianapolis in the worldwide spotlight with an arts and culture focus, he said.

“We’re often seen as an underdog, so we’d like to overdeliver. And that bodes well for us heading into the weekend,” Gahl told IBJ. “We—team Indy—never take an event for granted.”

Details on the logistics and cost of Indianapolis’ preparation to host an estimated 125,000 guests over the three-day event are still sparse. City government’s outlay won’t be known until after fans leave town, but here’s a look at some major costs.

Public safety

What drives the cost: Additional police officers are needed, working overtime, to secure downtown—in particular, enforcing street closures near venues where high-profile guests will enter and exit.

At a media briefing Jan. 24, IMPD Acting Chief Christopher Bailey said to expect a visible police presence throughout downtown, including at hard street closures at areas surrounding venues.

Using federal COVID-19 funding, Downtown Indy Inc. will pay for additional IMPD and safety ambassador foot and bike patrols.

In Salt Lake City, the bulk of the city’s $500,000 contribution went to public safety, such as overtime and physical-security needs such as barricades, said Roberta Reichgelt, director of business development for Salt Lake City.

Sometimes, security needs are unexpected. When Cleveland hosted the 2022 NBA All-Star Weekend, FBI assistance was necessary when one or two players began receiving somewhat threatening messages from social media users, Cleveland Department of Public Safety Emergency Manager Fred Szabo said.

“They posted that, you know, when they come to Cleveland, they were going to show up and demonstrate or do something like that. So we put together all those different intelligence sources, both federal and local, to try to understand what the potential threats are, and then we can have personnel around monitoring social media and those particular players that were mentioned, as well,” Szabo told IBJ.

Traffic

What drives the cost: Street closures surrounding special events and changes to traffic patterns will require extra work from the Department of Public Works. This work will go into overdrive if the weather turns ugly. IndyGo fares and Pacers Bike Share costs will be waived. DPW has extended some crosswalk times.

As part of an effort to make the 2024 NBA All-Star Weekend the “most community-centric ever,” a superlative ascribed to it by the host committee, two modes of transportation will be free: buses and bikes.

IndyGo will offer free rides on high-frequency bus routes departing from downtown’s Julia M. Carson Transit Center, with the last departure at 12:30 a.m. The free rides and extended hours are paid for through a partnership with the Indianapolis Foundation and the Indy Championship Fund.

It’s typical for public transit to become free for similar events. Both Cleveland and Salt Lake City’s transit authorities also featured fareless rides during their rounds as hosts.

Road closures haven’t been finalized, DPW spokesman Corey Ohlenkamp told IBJ. But permits from the Department of Business and Neighborhood Services and insights from other cities provide some clues.

As of Jan. 19, the Department of Business and Neighborhood Services had received four requests for special-event permits for All-Star Weekend, according to Public Information Officer Max Ramirez. Because the NBA All-Star Weekend has been designated a civic-sponsored event, like Indy Pride or Indiana Black Expo, permits have to be reviewed by the event organizer before receiving city consideration. In this case, the Indiana Pacers will review the permits.

Just one permit has been approved, with a pending road closure, Ramirez told IBJ in an email. A food vendor has requested to close East Market Street, from Alabama Street to Delaware Street, Feb. 15-18. The segment is the portion of East Market Street between City Market and the City-County Building.

These permit applications have brought in $6,720 in revenue for the city, Ramirez said.

Expect areas near the entrance to major event venues like Lucas Oil Stadium and Gainbridge Fieldhouse to have traffic restrictions. Reichgelt said that, in Salt Lake City, the NBA used these blocked-off areas to valet important people.

A takeaway from the trip to Salt Lake City, Parker said, was that pedestrians didn’t have enough time to cross the street. DPW will adjust stoplight times to accommodate more pedestrian traffic. This will be in the form of a head start of three to seven seconds when vehicles in the parallel direction are given the green signal, mostly along South Street through downtown, according to Ohlenkamp.

Harsh weather such as a snowstorm could drive additional costs. Parker noted that freezing rain that fell on Indianapolis during the college football national championship in January 2022 right before artists like Doja Cat and Twenty One Pilots performed on Monument Circle. City workers had to salt the area by hand rather than with vehicles.

Homelessness

What drives the cost: Previous host cities have incurred extra costs in an effort to provide unhoused individuals with an indoor option to watch the game. Although Indianapolis hasn’t revealed similar plans, ongoing homelessness-outreach efforts will continue.

In Salt Lake City, accusations surfaced that the city was trying to hide the homeless. But Reichgelt said that was a misunderstanding. Rather, she said, the city was trying to get the unhoused into an indoor facility to watch the game out of the winter weather.

“There was a protest, even on the day of the NBA All-Star Game. It didn’t disrupt anything, but it happened,” Reichgelt said.

In Indianapolis, Chelsea Haring-Cozzi of the Coalition of Homelessness Intervention and Prevention, or CHIP, said the city will benefit from six additional homelessness-outreach specialists that began doing rounds last spring, thanks to part of $686,0000 in federal funding the city allocated to Downtown Indy Inc. The allocation also funds overtime hours for IMPD’s homeless-outreach unit.

Haring-Cozzi said some homeless people might be temporarily displaced, in situations where event hosts are given special-event permits for an outdoor area where homeless individuals have historically lived. In that case, Haring-Cozzi said, it’s important that event organizers communicate with homelessness-outreach workers so the unhoused individuals are still reachable for services.•

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2 thoughts on “Indianapolis prepares for NBA All-Star 2024 hosting gig

  1. Every dollar is still tied to taxes! So regardless of weather citizens can afford to or choose to participate they are being forced to pay for these unnecessary expenses!

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