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Vol. 58, No. 2 • February 2021 • .pdf version
Indianapolis as a host city has come a long way, baby
By MALCOLM MORAN
We were standing near the corner of S. Capitol Avenue and W. Maryland Street in downtown Indianapolis on a sunny afternoon in the early 1980s. A year before, a Final Four had been held not far away, at Market Square Arena, with no hint of the impact the event would one day have on the city and the city would have on the event.
I had been offered a tour of downtown, a rolling description of the plans that were unfolding. These were big plans, a strategy to lift the profile of Indianapolis through the visibility of the sports industry. As the tour came to a close in front of the Hyatt Regency Indianapolis and I thanked my tour guide for the time, he pointed south, beyond the Indiana Convention Center.
"We are going to build a domed stadium," he said. "And we are going to bring a National Football League team to Indianapolis."
I nodded, smiled, and didn't say a word. My host had been much too kind for me to say what I was thinking: Good luck with that. Everything that was to follow was framed by that bold declaration and my speechless response: the Hoosier Dome, the Colts, the Pan American Games, the Final Fours, the Women's Final Fours, the NFL Scouting Combine, the arrival of the NCAA, Lucas Oil Stadium, a Super Bowl weekend in Indianapolis ...
And now this, an entire NCAA tournament in central Indiana.
This experience will be far different from the Final Four weekends we have come to celebrate, and not just because of the safety protocols that will be in place. For the first time since the Pan Am Games in the summer of 1987, there will be a chance to explore beyond the walks we have taken in those few square blocks of downtown.
Indiana Farmers Coliseum on the State Fairgrounds, where a $53 million renovation transformed the place where the Indiana Pacers were born, where the Beatles played and John F. Kennedy spoke, will host NCAA tournament games.
Hinkle Fieldhouse, which has preserved its majestic feel through multiple renovations, will host its first NCAA tournament game since 1940. That was when the Eastern Regional was held at Butler Fieldhouse, then considered the largest basketball arena in the United States.
Bankers Life Fieldhouse, which replaced Market Square Arena as home of the Pacers, just completed the first phase of a renovation.
This basketball trip to Indianapolis – and Bloomington and West Lafayette, which will host NCAA games for the first time since the 80s – is best navigated by car. You might cover games in different venues on the same day. You will need headphones for postgame Zoom sessions. You should expect to work at your seat location, not a work room. You might have to finish your story in your hotel room if a building is cleared for cleaning and sanitizing.
The challenge of covering this tournament will be similar to the challenge of covering a season in a pandemic: staying patient, nimble, and most of all, safe.
The reward will be the chance to discover new places beyond those few downtown blocks in Indianapolis, a process that has been going on for a while. During the 2010 Final Four, USBWA Hall of Famer Bob Ryan had a question for Brad Stevens, the coach of the Butler Bulldogs and a graduate of Zionsville Community High School, about 20 miles north of downtown Indianapolis.
"Where do I eat in Zionsville?" Ryan asked.
"The Friendly Tavern," Stevens replied.
Of course. Where else to eat in a place that prides itself on its Hoosier Hospitality?
When you place your order for curbside pickup, I'd go for the Whitefish.
Lodge Notes: Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic was named the national sports writer of the year by the National Sports Media Association. Auerbach, 31, is the youngest person ever to win the award.
Bill Rhoden, who spent 34 years at the New York Times, was named to NSMA’s Hall of Fame. He was named to the USBWA’s Hall of Fame in 2019.
Several USBWA members were named state sports writers of the year: Doug Haller of The Athletic (Arizona); Shannon Ryan of the Chicago Tribune (Illinois); Mick McCabe of the Detroit Free Press (Michigan); and Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Missouri).
Dave Reynolds retired after 38 years as a sports writer at the Peoria Journal Star, more than 30 of them covering the Bradley basketball program.
Dan Lauck, most recently of KHOU-TV in Houston, died from complications from Parkinson’s Disease at 72. Lauck also worked for The Topeka Capital-Journal, Newsday and The Washington Post, producing groundbreaking work on the emerging business and agent industry and the Boston College point-shaving scandal. A virtual celebration of Dan’s life will take place Saturday, Feb. 6 at 1 p.m. EST. Anyone interest- ed in participating should contact email@example.com.
Jack Scheuer, a longtime writer for the Associated Press, passed away at the age of 88. Scheuer attended more Big 5 games than any writer in Philadelphia.
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