This article originally appeared in the September 1982 issue of AB with the title, “Indianapolis’ Incredible Dream.”
Indianapolis has become a major sports mecca.
Spurred by the boundless energy and enthusiasm of local leaders, the city is generating tremendous excitement in the sports world. An air of electricity pervades the local citizenry, the result being an almost frenzied dedication to creating a sports Shangri-La.
The most tangible evidence is a gleaming array of top-notch new facilities, which allow Indianapolis to host world-class competition in virtually any sport.
Skeptical outsiders need only to visit the city to see what’s been done—and to experience the drive and excitement that envelopes the area and characterizes everyone involved.
A driving force has been the Indiana Sports Corporation, a non-profit group that relies on the enthusiasm and hard work of thousands of volunteers in its efforts to make Indy a major sports center.
Another basic element is an intense spirit of cooperation that exists among the public and private sectors. Local government, the university, corporations, sports governing bodies—they’ve all played major roles in planning and funding the many spectacular facilities and programs.
What’s happening in Indianapolis is indicative, on a grand scale, of what is possible when elements in a community dedicate themselves to a project and work together with common goals.
A crowning achievement in an extraordinarily busy season for sports in the city was the fourth National Sports Festival, held in late July. The eight-day festival featured more than 2,500 potential Olympic athletes from around the country, competing in 33 sports at 17 sites in and around Indianapolis.
The festival gave the city a chance to showcase all of its magnificent facilities at once. It’s a safe bet that such an occurrence will happen again soon on an even larger scale—in 1992, perhaps.
Here, one by one, is a closer look at the elements making Indianapolis a hub of sports excitement:
Domed Stadium Set for ‘84
The centerpiece of the Indianapolis sports complex, when completed, will be the $75-million domed stadium, which will be part of the new addition to the gleaming Indiana Convention Center downtown. The stadium, expected to be ready by mid-1984, will be able to accommodate major league football, baseball and other events. It will have a 95,000-square foot field and seating for 63,000 spectators.
The IU Natatorium
Many of the new facilities are located on or near the campus of Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI), a school of nearly 25,000 students, which along with Indiana University at Bloomington, forms the core of the statewide IU system.
The IUPUI School of Physical Education/Natatorium Building houses one of the most advanced swimming facilities in the world. The $21.5-million project includes a 50-meter, 8-lane competition pool designed to virtually eliminate turbulence, and featuring two movable bulkheads; a 75-foot by 55-foot world-class diving pool; and a 6-lane, 50-meter practice pool, which will be used for physical education classes, recreation and as a warm-up facility for competitors using the competition pool.
There is seating for 4,7000 spectators and 800 competitors, the latter on deck level.
The 220,000-square foot facility also includes a main and an auxiliary gymnasium, two racquetball courts and extensive office space.
Funding was provided by Indiana University ($7 million), an Economic Development Administration grant ($1.5 million) and private gifts ($13 million).
Track and Field Stadium
Also on the campus is a world-class complex of track and field facilities, featuring an 8-lane, 400-meter all-weather Mondo track with an inside jogging lane. The infield has flexible set-ups for the field events. The stadium features permanent seating for about 12,800 spectators and temporary seating for another 7,000. The facility is designed so that additional permanent seating could be added.
The complex cost $5.9 million, with $4 million coming in private gifts and the remaining $1.9 million from university funds.
The university works closely with the Athletics Congress, based in Indianapolis, in developing special programs and events for the stadium.
The stadium is located on a 28-acre site adjacent to the Natatorium Building. Included are fields for softball, soccer and volleyball, for intramural, recreational and intercollegiate programs.
The Indianapolis Velodrome
The Indianapolis Velodrome, completed to coincide with the Sports Festival, is a $2.5-million facility designed to be the fastest among the country’s 13 bicycle-racing facilities.
The 333 1/3-meter track features a maximum banking of 28 degrees, and an ultra-smooth surface of low, shrunk concrete, designed to provide safety as well as speed. Expansion joints are set unusually far apart, to minimize obstruction on the track.
A tunnel connects the track to the outfield, so cyclists can cross the track away from spectators and judges, and without interrupting races. The nation’s only other velodrome with this feature is the Olympic facility in Los Angeles.
The velodrome also has sophisticated timing equipment, with video cameras, and accommodations for 5,000 spectators. It will be operated by the Indianapolis Dept. of Parks and Recreation.
Indianapolis Sports Center
A facility which combines accommodations for world-class competition, along with extensive opportunities for use by the local citizenry, is the Indianapolis Sports Center. Opened in 1979, it is one of the largest and best-equipped tennis complexes in the United States.
The complex features 18 clay and 6 asphalt tennis courts; 6 of the clay courts are covered in the winter with an air-supported roof, assuring year-round use.
The focal point of the complex is the Stadium Court, which features seating for 10,000, extensive press facilities, multiple locker rooms and players’ lounges. The south stand, containing 4, 6, and 8-seat boxes, is fully covered.
The opening of the ISC has allowed the city to host the U.S. Clay Court Championships, a nationally-televised event which attracts the world’s top players. Following the Clay Courts, the ISC hosts an international tournament for boys and girls up to age 18, an important event for developing world-class players.
The $7-million project was funded by a $4-million municipal bond issue underwritten by the city of Indianapolis; a $1.5-million challenge grant from Lilly Endowment, Inc., and $1.5-million raised in a corporate fund drive.
Like the funding, the management of the ISC is indicative of the type of cooperation existing in Indianapolis. The complex is managed by Municipal Recreation, Inc., a non-profit corporation whose nine-member board includes: three persons appointed by the mayor; three designated by the trustees of Indiana University; the chairman of the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce; the director of the U.S. Open Clay Court Committee, and the Central Indiana Junior Tennis Development Chairman.
The stadium is available for a variety of local events, including musical and dramatic productions, trade shows, cultural exhibits, travel, car or hobby shows, and numerous athletic competitions.
Market Square Arena
Though completed in 1974, well before the sports boom in Indianapolis, Market Square Arena plays a major role as one of the busiest arenas in the country. The 18,000-seat facility is the home of the NBA’s Indiana Pacers, the Indianapolis Racers of the Central Hockey League, frequent NCAA tournament games and events such as the 1982 U.S. Figure Skating championships, which drew a record attendance of 87,000. It hosted basketball, figure skating, ice hockey and speed skating events at the National Sports Festival.
Sports Medicine Complex
Plans are also underway for a building to house the new International Institute of Sports Science and Medicine, recently organized by the Indiana University School of Medicine. The building will also be the new headquarters for the American College of Sports Medicine, which is moving from Madison, Wis. The ACSM will be housed temporarily in the Natatorium facility.
With the ACSM joining other organizations which have chosen Indianapolis for their national headquarters—among them the Athletic Congress, Swimming U.S.A. and the U.S. Diving Association—it’s easy to see how the city is becoming a sports capital, for activities both on and off the field of competition.
It’s apparent that Hoosier enthusiasm is infectious.