There’s a reason Indianapolis is called the “amateur sports capital of the world,” and it’s not just because it’s home to the NCAA headquarters. The city has shown tremendous resilience, collaboration, and innovation in the last year to host four major sports championships, on top of countless other regular-season games both professionally and collegiately.
“Our city was truly made for this moment,” Indiana Sports Corp Director of Public Relations Brett Kramer said.
Football fans around the nation tuned in to watch the Georgia Bulldogs defeat the defending national champions, the Alabama Crimson Tide, last night, in the 2022 College Football Championship. The two teams met up where the pros play, in Lucas Oil Stadium downtown Indianapolis. And for Indy, this was more than just a football game.
“It’s just a way to say we are back after the pandemic. Just a chance to celebrate our city,” Lisa Vielee, spokesperson for the Indy Host Committee, told CBS4. “Indianapolis really has a reputation of being the amateur sports capital of the world.”
And rightfully so. In less than one year, Indianapolis hosted four major championships: the 2021 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament, the 2021 March Madness tournament, the 2021 Big Ten Football Championship, and most recently, the 2022 College Football Championship.
The Big Ten tournament was the warmup: 14 teams and 13 games over the span of four days all in Lucas Oil Stadium. Not even a month later, 68 teams visited for March Madness as they played 66 games over 19 days in that same location.
Then, shortly after hosting Big Ten Football Championship that bought nearly 70,000 fans to the stadium, the city put on its grand finale with the 2022 College Football Championship, as 70,000 more fans filled the city streets and packed Lucas Oil Stadium.
CBS4 reported an estimated economic impact of $150 million over the weekend leading up to the big game, and with the experience of last year’s basketball championships, the hundreds of hotels, shops, restaurants, and bars were ready.
Businesses, leaders, and volunteers worked closely to prepare for and serve the 64,000 visitors to the city for March Madness, which created $41 million in revenue for the hotels, restaurants, and shops.
When reflecting on the successful tournament in the Indiana Sports Corp’s video series, “Inside the Huddle,” Chief Operating Officer Patrick Talty said it was more than just a tournament or even a national championship.
"It was so exciting to think that we had this opportunity to harness the gift of the entire March Madness…to think what we could do with that for the entire community, that’s what I got excited about,” he said. “We have an opportunity to make this bigger than the event, bigger than the game. This is an opportunity for us to restart downtown…and that is really where the community came together.”
This was exemplified as local artists created murals, paintings, and sports graphics and live musicians performed on the streets, adding a cultural experience to warmly welcome guests to the city for March Madness.
And for Indy’s own community, the College Football Playoff Foundation and the College Football Playoff Indianapolis Host Committee awarded four Indianapolis schools with million-dollar media-center makeovers as part of their Extra Yard For Teachers initiative.
“These makeovers provide resources for the schools to transform school spaces with enhanced technology and creative design to meet the demands of 21st Century teaching and learning,” according to the Indianapolis Host Committee website.
While engaging and collaborating with its own community, Indianapolis was able to successfully entertain and provide for a sports-hungry nation all while navigating ever-changing covid protocols and restrictions.
The success illustrates how Flyover Country cities and states can leverage their “legacy” advantages and build them into major, unique strengths in an era when digitization would level the playing field across every endeavor.
For Indianapolis, those advantages are a central location, traditional love of sports statewide, and foresight in making sure its facilities are good and attractive enough to host national events in great style. It’s a great model for other heartland cities to follow.