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The Score - Anthony Schoettle

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Sports Business

Fight for Colts training camp could erupt into Civil War

June 3, 2010
KEYWORDS Sports Business

Anderson has been desperately trying to lure the Indianapolis Colts back to town for its three-week training camp since the NFL team vacated for Terre Haute in 1999.

Colts President Bill Polian cited Anderson fans’ “passion for the Colts” when detailing the reasons why the Colts are heading back to Anderson.

Really? The fans of Anderson love the Colts more than those in Terre Haute?

I doubt it.

Anderson’s desire to coral the Colts training camp has little to do with city officials’ and residents’ affinity for football.

And no, the 24,000 or so fans that venture to training camp for an early gander at the team aren’t going to offer a huge economic impact to the city.

Anderson officials are desperate to become more of a northern extension of Indianapolis and they want badly to gain the attention of the Indianapolis media any way they can.

For three weeks this August (and presumably in future Augusts), Anderson will get its chance.

And it won't just be the Indianapolis media. With the way the Colts are playing these days, expect ESPN, ABC, CBS and NBC to descend on Anderson. Already Terre Haute officials are lamenting the loss of national media exposure.

“The national coverage was something you could never begin to pay for,” David Patterson, executive director of the Terre Haute Convention and Visitors Bureau told the Terre Haute Star Tribune.

No central Indiana city needs positive local and national media coverage in a worse way than Anderson.

Let’s not forget, Anderson is still trying to re-make itself in the post-General Motors era. You see, everything’s not about football, although it appears that way some times in the Horseshoe Kingdom.

Anderson is a city that has seen its population plummet from 72,000 to less than 60,000 in the last 25 years. In the same time, the city has seen $10 billion in annual wages evaporate along with $156 million in annual tax revenue and $430 billion in industrial output.

Even in this economy, those numbers are a little difficult to comprehend. So you can see how a few million dollars in improvements at Anderson University would seem like small potatoes if this is the means to the end that Anderson officials think it will be.

This is all about getting businesses and venture capitalists with ties to Indianapolis (and perhaps beyond) to see Anderson for more than a rust belt poster child.

You have to credit Anderson’s efforts in what can only be described as difficult, some would say desperate, circumstances.

Anderson officials in recent years have hired marketers to try to promote the city, built the state’s largest business incubator off Interstate 69’s Exit 22 and drilled water wells in an attempt to lure food manufacturers and replacement jobs for those long-gone high-paying GM union gigs.

What better way to get Circle City’s attention than by partnering with their beloved Colts.

Anderson was so eager to get the Colts back, an Anderson City Councilman told me in February 2009 that he was “99 percent” certain the team was coming that year. That turned out not to be the case.

In 2005, when I visited Anderson to do a story on the city’s economic re-development, the then mayor and an economic developer pulled me aside and told me the city was positioning itself to lure the Colts’ training camp back.

I have been a little confused by Anderson officials’ obsession with trying to get the training camp back.

No doubt they’ll try to spin every media type that ventures their way to their economic development landmarks and blueprints.

I hope it has the intended effect.

At the same time, I doubt this civil war is over.

I have no doubt Terre Haute is already scheming ways to get the Colts training camp back.

And now I’m hearing Franklin is mounting its own strategy to get in on the game.
 

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