Indianapolis is set in 2021 to host the NBA All-Star Game for the first time since 1985.
To put that latter year into perspective, the RCA Dome had just opened. Mayor Bill Hudnut was starting his third term. And Pacers Sports & Entertainment President Rick Fuson was only in his second year with the team.
“[The All-Star-Game] really was in its infancy then,” Fuson said. “We’ve learned that it certainly has become bigger than in 1985, and it’s different in each city.”
Fuson and Mel Raines, Pacers senior vice president of facilities and operations, along with members of the local All-Star Game host committee, traveled last week to Los Angeles for the game, and to pick up a few pointers on hosting such a big event.
The group returned with “an awful lot of ideas,” Fuson said. But perhaps most important, they plan to tap into one of the city’s top tourism calling cards—its compact downtown—to ensure the weekend's festivities are successful.
It’s a proven formula, whereby visitors can hoof it to various venues and hotels without having to worrying about catching an Uber or hailing a taxi. It worked for the 2012 Super Bowl, several Final Fours and the Big Ten's football championship, so why try and reinvent the wheel?
“We in Indianapolis, because of our downtown, really have a campus that we haven’t seen in the past three years,” Fuson said, referring to recent All-Star Game host cities. "We have learned that we will be able to again bring [the game] back to a campus-like setting.”
New Orleans and Toronto hosted the game before Los Angeles. Next up: Charlotte and Chicago, before Indianapolis once again steps onto the national stage.
In 1985, the game was played at the Hoosier Dome, and the MVP was Ralph Sampson of the Houston Rockets. The 18,165-seat Bankers Life Fieldhouse, a much more intimate setting than a spacious dome, will play host this time.
Whether any big improvements will be made to Bankers Life before 2021 remains to be seen. In 2012, a new audio and video system was installed, along with a larger scoreboard. And in 2016, the Pacers unveiled a revamped floor-level restaurant.
“We’re still in a wait-and-see mode, but hopefully there will be some,” Fuson said of the possible upgrades. “It won’t be a total makeover, but we have to keep it up-to-date.”
In other sports news:
New Indianapolis Colts Head Coach Frank Reich met season-ticket holders Tuesday evening at a town hall meeting that featured an appearance by quarterback Andrew Luck, via a pre-taped interview with Peter King of Sports Illustrated.
Here’s a snippet of what Reich told season-ticket holders: “We will be a tough football team, we will be a disciplined football team, we will be a prepared football team and we will be a close team that respects each other and respects the community in which we play, understanding that every person matters.”
And fans should be breathing easier after the injured Luck addressed the crowd, telling them that he’s feeling better and that he’s ruled out additional surgery.
"I'm in the middle of a little bit of throwing," Luck explained, without saying whether he was using a football or another object. "But I'm really preparing and strengthening the shoulder to handle the throwing load of an NFL quarterback, to make sure the shoulder can handle it."