Lesley Weidenbener: All-Star Weekend promises big impact

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The road to the NBA All-Star Weekend in Indianapolis has been a winding one, but the game and accompanying events are now just six weeks away.

IBJ is kicking off our coverage in this week’s paper with front-page stories about what the Indianapolis host committee is doing to ensure central Indiana residents can participate even without going to the main event and what local venues are doing to get in on the action.

We also have a schedule of events—at least the ones we know about so far—on page 24A.

You’ll see plenty more coverage from us through the game on Feb. 18. But of course, we’ll focus less on the sports and more on the impact of the event on the city.

That won’t be hard. The NBA All Star Weekend, which begins on Feb. 15, is about much more than a game between top basketball players. It’s also a celebration of fashion, fans and music. It features exclusive parties and opportunities to volunteer to help others. There will be a startup pitch competition and corporate entertaining.

And we’re expecting some big names to descend on the city—entertainers, business leaders, artists and film and TV stars, in addition to the best basketball players in the country.

Many of the details, though, are yet to be unveiled. As you’ll read in reporter Dave Lindquist’s story in today’s paper, most of the entertainers who will perform in both public and private events haven’t been named. Companies that will host so-called activations—essentially brand-based events, parties or experiences—have not announced their plans.

Spaces in and around downtown are being booked for events, but often, even the venue managers don’t initially know whom they’ll be hosting.

We’ll be keeping track of all the announcements. If you’re signed up for our email alerts and newsletters, you’ll see those stories. And we’ll showcase all the coverage at IBJ.com/all-star. There you can find the latest stories and columns about the weekend, plus a schedule we’ll be updating as events and entertainers are added.

As we get closer to the big weekend, we’ll add sound and video to the website, as well.

If it all seems a bit much for a business journal, consider the projected impact of the weekend. The NBA estimated in October that the weekend will generate at least $320 million for the central Indiana economy. That’s considerably more than an initial $250 million projection.

And while economic impact projections always feel a bit sketchy—and the NBA certainly has every reason to promote a big number—there’s little doubt that much of the spending for All-Star Weekend will come from people traveling to Indianapolis. In addition, the spending comes at a time of the year when other convention and tourism traffic isn’t especially high.

Jason Benish, vice president of operations at Huse Culinary, which owns St. Elmo Steakhouse and Harry & Izzy’s, told IBJ the company talked with restaurants in previous NBA All-Star cities to prepare for Indy’s experience. As a result, he said, “We expect the boost in traffic to be somewhere between a Final Four weekend and the days leading up to the Super Bowl” that Indianapolis hosted in 2012.

We plan to spend the next several weeks examining those impacts and telling business stories. We’d love to hear from you about your expectations for All-Star Weekend and learn what you’d like to read about. Email me at lweidenbener@ibj.com and check out IBJ.com/all-star for more.•

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Weidenbener is editor of IBJ. Email her at lweidenbener@ibj.com.

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