Sports Corp. aims to smash gymnastics attendance record

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The gymnasts here for the P&G Gymnastic Championships Aug. 13-16 aren’t the only ones hoping to vault to new heights.

The Indiana Sports Corp., the local organizer, aims to smash the attendance record for the U.S. national championship event to be held at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Ticket sales are ahead of projections, said ISC President Ryan Vaughn, adding that the Fieldhouse’s lower bowl could be sold out for several sessions.

“We anticipate 30,000 in attendance over four days, but we wouldn’t be surprised to have 35,000,” Vaughn said.

The Saturday night session—when the women’s national champions will be crowned—is expected to draw 12,000 to 15,000. Bankers Life Fieldhouse holds 18,165.

If the ISC meets its goal, it will be a 25-percent to 45-percent increase over when the city last held the event in 2005 at the facility—then called Conseco Fieldhouse.

It would also exceed the record 28,756 that attended the event last year in Pittsburgh. Last year’s event was a 16-percent increase over the 2013 event in Hartford, Connecticut.

“It’s especially important for us, with USA Gymnastics headquartered here, that this be the biggest and best championship that they have,” Vaughn said.

With deals signed with Kroger, St. Vincent Sports Performance, Vera Bradley, Hendricks Regional Health, Deloitte, OneAmerica, Bohlsen Group, Washington National Insurance Co., Crowe Horwath, Anthem and Faegre Baker Daniels, sponsorship revenue for the event also is beating projections, Vaughn said.

Procter & Gamble is the event’s title sponsor.

“It’s not our goal to make money off the event, it’s our goal to promote the sport and the city as a great place to host events,” Vaughn said. “That said, I’m confident it will be a great event for USA Gymnastics and the Indiana Sports Corp.”

USA Gymnastics President Steve Penny said he is “very confident” enough will be raised through ticket and sponsorship sales to cover the event’s budget of about $1 million.

“We track this very closely,” Penny said. “I think this absolutely could be the biggest and best event we’ve ever had.”

Penny credits the early success of the event “to support from the corporate community and community at large.”

“There’s a strong affinity here for the Olympic movement,” Penny said. “USA Gymnastics is No. 1 in the world and has some of the biggest names in the Olympic movement. We’ve also had a great cooperative effort with the Indiana Sports Corp. and other groups to put this event on here.”

This year’s P&G Gymnastics Championship is a qualifier for the 2015 world championships for the men’s and women’s teams. It’s also a critical first step, Penny said, in making the 2016 Olympic team.

“Anyone who wants to be in the Olympics mix knows they have to show now,” he said.

In addition to hosting the competition, local officials will host the USA Gymnastics National Congress & Trade show, which is expected to draw 3,000 people to the Indiana Convention Center Aug. 13-16. The convention center also will be used as a training site for the gymnasts.

During the event, Georgia Street will be transformed into a Brazilian-themed beach party as a kick-off to the 2016 Rio Olympics. Sand will be trucked in and the atmosphere will be livened up by musical performances, food trucks and other attractions, Vaughn said.

Prices for all-session tickets for this year’s event range from $150 to $495, multi-session package range from $75 to $140 while single-session package are $10 to $105.

Visit Indy projects the event will have a $7.6 million economic impact on the city.

Marketing for the event started earlier this summer with visits to numerous gymnastics clubs and facilities. Large banners went up last weekend on the fieldhouse and Circle Centre mall to tout the event. On Monday, Vaughn said, a massive ad campaign featuring television, radio, print and billboard ads will launch. Also on Monday, two-time world all-around champion Simone Biles will make a special announcement at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in part to promote the event.

The upcoming ad campaign will be critical to the event’s success, Vaughn said, because the national gymnastics championship has a history of drawing a lot of walk-up ticket sales.

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