It’s not quite March yet, but it’s already madness inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse. If you’re a hoops fan, it’s the best kind of madness.
The Fieldhouse staff on Wednesday tips off a grueling stretch that will see 15 high school and college tournament champions crowned under the roof of the downtown venue.
In all, more than 70 teams composed of 800 youth, high school, college and pro players will compete in a whopping 54 games in just 43 days at the 18,165-seat fieldhouse.
During the six-week span, more than 400,000 basketball fans are expected to visit the 16-year-old facility that USA Today calls “A Cathedral to Basketball.” Those fans will pump more than $40 million into central Indiana's economy, according to Visit Indy.
The frenetic stretch begins with Wednesday’s Pacers game against the New York Knicks and finishes up with three national championship games (Division I, II and III) as part of the 2016 NCAA Women’s Final Four, April 3-5, and a Pacers game the next day against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. This is the first year the NCAA has crowned the Division I, II and III champs in the same city.
In between are 11 more Pacers games, 26 games in a two-week run of Big Ten men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, the IHSAA girls and boys state finals, and a pair of city championship games for youth.
Fifty-three telecasts, spread across CBS, ESPN, ESPN2, Big Ten Network and FOX Sports Indiana, will air from the 18,165-seat Fieldhouse will air during the stretch. Every game, except the two youth city championship games, will air on regional or national TV.
The men’s Big Ten basketball tournament has a projected economic impact of $13.4 million, the women’s Big Ten basketball tournament is $5.2 million and the NCAA Women’s Final Four has a projected economic impact of $18.6 million, according to Visit Indy.
The Indiana Pacers games and high school state championships will add to the economic impact.
“It’s a lot of basketball,” said Visit Indy Vice President Chris Gahl. “And it will draw an awful lot of traffic downtown and spending to the region.”
Fieldhouse staff—which will be essentially working around the clock—will change the arena playing floor 16 times during the stretch—including five consecutive days of transition from Pacers to concert to Pacers to IHSAA to Pacers to Big Ten from Feb. 24-29.
A complete conversion of operational space, including re-allocation of 8,800 square feet of storage to accommodate a media operations center—plus internal and external décor—is needed for each of the Big Ten and NCAA tournament events.
Indiana Pacers officials who run the Fieldhouse call this stretch unprecedented.
During the six-week period, the Pacers play 13 home games compared to just nine on the road. The Pacers play at least one home game in every week of the stretch, including a March 7 game against San Antonio, during just two days separating the pair of Big Ten tournaments. Following the Big Ten men’s tournament, the Pacers play five straight home games from March 15 to 24.
Three concerts, on Feb. 25, March 18 and 30, are shoe-horned between the blizzard of basketball games.
On March 22, during the building’s only 48-hour stretch with no games or setup, the Fever will host a 400-guest Legacy Luncheon in the Fieldhouse's entry pavilion honoring its three-time Olympian and longtime WNBA All-Star, Tamika Catchings.