Feb 15, 2024 - News

Indy's NBA All-Star Weekend is 7 years in the making

Photo illustration of a collage featuring Gainbridge Fieldhouse with elements of old Pacers uniforms and a basketball grip pattern.

Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo: James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Seven years, a global pandemic and nearly $400 million in renovations after securing the NBA All-Star Game, Gainbridge Fieldhouse and Indianapolis are ready.

Why it matters: The city is expecting 125,000 visitors to downtown over the course of NBA All-Star Weekend, driving more than $300 million in economic impact and putting Indianapolis front-and-center of national and international news for a few days.

What they're saying: "Indianapolis wrote the book on hosting events like this," Mayor Joe Hogsett said this week.

  • "Our city will do everything it must — everything it does better than any other city does — and that is play host to the world."

Flashback: In 2019, the Indiana General Assembly passed legislation that paved the way for an $800 million deal between the Pacers and the Capital Improvement Board to keep the team in town for another 25 years.

  • It included $360 million in massive renovations to what was then known as Bankers Life Fieldhouse that started the following year.
  • Interior work included a new center scoreboard, reworked seating in the lower bowl, upgraded club areas and overhauled concourses.
  • The last and most striking phase of the project was the Bicentennial Unity Plaza — the large outdoor gathering space that replaced a parking garage and features a basketball court most of the year and transforms into an ice rink in the winter.

By the numbers: The CIB, which owns the fieldhouse, and the city paid for the bulk of the project — $295 million — with Pacers Sports & Entertainment kicking in $65 million.

The intrigue: When the NBA announced in 2017 that Indy would host All-Star Weekend, it was originally slated for 2021, which would have been in the middle of the renovations.

  • Our hosting bid was postponed to 2024 while a scaled-down 2021 event was moved to Atlanta due to COVID-19.

The silver lining: The intervening three years gave city leaders and event planners a longer runway to plan the perfect event, finish renovations to Gainbridge Fieldhouse and put an extra shine on downtown.

  • Technology advancements are making things like the LED court possible that wouldn't have been in 2021, said David Pierce, an associate professor of sports management at IU Indianapolis and director of the Sports Innovation Institute.

Yes, but: That doesn't mean you won't see any construction downtown. Work continues on major projects in and around the Mile Square, including a new hotel at Pan Am Plaza and the South Street extension of the cultural trail.

Between the lines: Pierce said the upside of hosting an event like the All-Star Weekend is a "no-brainer" for a city with as much experience pulling off big events as Indianapolis has. This is the city that hosted all of March Madness in 2021, after all.

  • The impact is smaller than the Super Bowl, he said, but the global brand of the NBA and associated star power puts it above things like March Madness and the College Football Playoffs.

The bottom line: "It builds on and strengthens our image" as a top-tier host city, he said. "This is the first event since COVID where we'll really be able to show everything we can do."

Go deeper: Your entertainment guide to All-Star Weekend

avatar

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Indianapolis.

More Indianapolis stories