It Was Big (Ten); It Can Be Bigger

In the college football world, a lot has happened since last Saturday’s Big Ten Championship game unfolded in Indianapolis for the second consecutive year. (More on that in a minute). Northern Illinois crashed the Bowl Championship Series party, creating a venom that is usually reserved for teams that are on the outside looking in when it comes to the NCAA basketball tournament.

The coach who won that Big Ten title game has bolted Wisconsin for Arkansas in an unexpected move. Notre Dame, Ball State and Purdue learned their bowl destinations, with the Boilermakers hiring a new coach — from that same no-respect Mid-American Conference as Northern Illinois and Ball State. (In case, you didn ‘t know I’m a Ball State grad and proud to be making the trip to Florida for the always popular Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl).

But my focus is back to Indiana and the business of sports. Yes, the 41,000-plus in attendance at Lucas Oil Saturday night was a dramatic drop from more than 62,000 a year earlier. Yes, TV ratings were down (falling almost as fast as the Nebraska defenders as Wisconsin running backs piled up more than 500 yards in a 70-31 victory). Yes, there is concern despite Indy being in the middle of a five-year contract to serve as host. Many say the attendance problem would have been solved if undefeated Ohio State had not been on probation, but that falls into the category of things we can’t control.

I volunteered both Friday and Saturday at the Big Ten Fanfest at the Indiana Convention Center and attended the game. A few observations.

  • Wisconsin and Nebraska fans showed up and they liked what they saw. I talked with numerous parents and family members who, like so many before them, truly appreciated downtown Indianapolis and all its amenities. They enjoyed Georgia Street before the game and they, at least on the Wisconsin side, enjoyed a winning effort in Lucas Oil for the second straight year.
  • Yes, this is only anecdotal, but I witnessed far fewer fans from the Hoosier state taking part in either the Fanfest or the game. On a smaller scale, the Fanfest was similar to the NFL Experience that took place in conjunction with Super Bowl XLVI earlier this year. An opportunity seemed to be missed in not generating more interest and participation on a local or regional level.
  • These events, and many others, bring a true excitement and economic impact to downtown. The benefits both in the short term and in further establishing the Circle City as a destination spot are numerous.

Let’s allow the creative people who do such a good job bringing these sports championships here to work on ways to bring more fans into the fold. And if you’re looking for something else to do in late November/early December on a post-Thanksgiving weekend, give the Big Ten and its championship a good hard look in coming years.

Bradshaw to Headline ‘Super’ Event

OK, we can’t be absolutely sure there will be football this summer (training camps and preseason contests) or early fall, but does anyone really believe that players and owners can’t figure out a way to compromise when $9 billion in revenues is at stake.

And Indiana, of course, has even more on the line than normal with Super Bowl XLVI (that’s 46 for those needing a Roman numeral translation) coming to Lucas Oil Stadium on February 5, 2012.

But the Indiana Chamber can guarantee football on November 17 of this year when Terry Bradshaw highlights our 22nd Annual Awards Dinner. In addition to four Super Bowl titles as a Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback, Bradshaw shines as a commentator, actor, singer, author, motivational speaker and more.

It’s always an outstanding business celebration (ask any of the 1,500-plus who attended in 2010), but it’s great to tie in to Indiana’s latest opportunity to shine on the sports world stage.

Check out today’s press release; more on Bradshaw; and a 2010 Annual Dinner highlight video.

The Big ‘E’ as in Evansville

Evansville is always an interesting locale. Residents there feel the disconnect from Central Indiana (it’s difficult to have a conversation without the Interstate 69 topic coming up, and I understand to some degree their frustration), but they don’t really have the big out-of-state neighbor (think Chicago, Cincinnati or Louisville) to turn to as an Indiana alternative.

I’ve had the opportunity to report on a number of intriguing stories out of the area known as the Pocket City, River City, Crescent City and probably a few other nicknames. I’m working on one for the next BizVoice magazine that focuses on plans for a new downtown arena and the economic development potential it brings.

Look for a major announcement on that project soon and some analysis in the upcoming BizVoice. Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel, by the way, says that on its own scale this development will be every bit as important to his community as the Lucas Oil Stadiums and Conseco Fieldhouses are to Indianapolis.

We’ve also compiled community feature sections from Fort Wayne, South Bend and Terre Haute in 2009 editions of BizVoice. There is plenty going on in all corners of the state and in many cities and towns in between. We enjoy bringing you the stories, hope you enjoy reading them and welcome your ideas for future topics.

Welcome Back, Warlocks

If you’re walking around downtown Indianapolis the next few days, you might just bump into a wizard, a warlock or an enormous gathering of average Joe’s with comic book heroes on their black t-shirts and backpacks full of gaming items. Gen Con Indy is one of the many massive conventions in Indianapolis’ growing convention market. 
Gen Con Indy claims the top spot at the sorcerer’s round table as the original, best attended and longest running gaming convention in the entire galaxy. In 2007, over 26,000 gamers attended Gen Con Indy. This is another example why Indianapolis must offer the best facilities available in Lucas Oil Stadium and the expanding Indiana Convention Center. The tax revenue generated from Gen Con and other conventions is very important to downtown’s economy, not to mention the boon to local restaurants and hotels.
Here’s a list of upcoming events at Lucas Oil Stadium and the Indiana Convention Center. The expected attendance numbers are critical for Indiana tourism.
If you do bump into one of our visiting gamers, be nice, ok? They might have horns or claim to have powers to place a spell banishing you to the planet Zog, but they never cause any trouble and they go about their own business. 

Welcome back, Gen Con folks!