by Kent Sterling
No city does this better. The only huge sporting events the City of Indianapolis will never hold are the World Series, a Summer Olympics, and the Daytona 500. The rest of them it has hosted, and no city does it better
Sure, Indy’s layout allows for a great experience where a fan can walk from the hotel to the restaurant to the arena or stadium, and the downtown becomes a vibrant carnival of color and light, but the reason Indianapolis is so good is that it always strives to be better and more friendly the next time.
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I remember the meetings for the various committees that precede and follow the Big Ten Tourney every year where Jack Swarbrick, now the athletic director at Notre Dame, would congratulate everyone, and then tell us to raze the structure that was so successful and rebuild it better for next year.
These events a the focus of those who are the best and brightest in Indianapolis and serious thought and effort is given to providing a great experience for the visitors who want to see some great basketball in person.
The selection of Chicago as an occasional host through the run of this event is something that I have always taken personally. Where the Big Ten Tournament is a civic focus in Indy, for Chicago it’s a distraction. In Indy, the goal is to make welcome thousands of visitors. In Chicago, the objective is cash.
If some additional tax revenue is collected to fill Indianapolis potholes because of a significant athletic event, that’s all well and good. In Chicago, the point of the thing is bucks, and that goes for every aspect of the visitors’ experience. Here, people greet you with a smile and a “How ya doin’?” In Chicago, the greetings come in many forms and gestures – none suitable for print.
(I grew up in Chicago, lived there until I was 30, and my ancestors called Chicago home for generations. My Mom and sister still live in the western suburbs, and I love Chicago, but it’s a place that grins maniacally when visitors with bulging pockets cross the city limits.)
Anyway, this post isn’t supposed to be about bashing Chicago, there are plenty who are better at it than I. This is an exaltation of the right way to host the visitors who make a destination of a Big Ten Tourney, NCAA Final Four, Indianapolis 500, Brickyard 400, Super Bowl, World Basketball Championship, and the many other giant events that have very happily called Indianapolis home.
The reason it’s done so well here is the point of differentiation in all cities – its people. Indianapolis is a welcoming place that trusts visitors, and works hard to make sure their expectations are exceeded (not too hard with some as many incorrectly view Indianapolis as a meaningless outpost without charm or purpose).
I’m going to spend the rest of the day and night celebrating college basketball at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, and the surrounding establishments that should be loud and raucous on a St. Patrick’s Day weekend.
It’s important that the media gets to live the life of those fans who consume the events we cover, or at least that’s my excuse for having a hell of a good time in a town I regret living in only because I can’t visit.
And they will finally get some real basketball there — two Kentucky teams on Friday. Remember when Kentucky offered to play the Hoosiers there Kent? The Cats have decided to go ahead and play there anyway.
We are glad to welcome all UK, Louisville, Michigan, and Tennessee fans (and their cash) to Indianapolis. We will be hospitable, and they will find their visit convenient and fun – even if only one team can emerge from the regional to go to the Final Four.
Three of the coaches are men of high character, and it will be sad to watch two of them leave unhappy.
It’s a shame that UK didn’t care to continue the series on or near college campuses where students could easily enjoy it.