INDIANAPOLIS — Whether it’s here in Indiana’s state capitol, Indianapolis, or the city across the river from Minnesota’s capitol city, civic leaders and others sing praises of the economic windfalls that large-scale sporting events generate. However, they typically fail to specify just who these windfalls benefit.
“Over the past 35 years, Indiana’s community, corporate, government and volunteer investment for sports has resulted in…[and] have generated more than $4 billion in direct visitor spending,” boasted Ryan Vaughn, president of Indiana Sports Corporation, in a local business magazine earlier this year. He also noted that last year’s Men’s Final Four and the 2012 Super Bowl brought in almost $250 million in this “direct visitor spending” from out-of-towners.
This economic windfall doesn’t include the estimated $20 million generated by this year’s Women’s Final Four, which for the first time ever included both the Division II and III championship games on the day between the Division I semifinals and finals, nor the annual Women’s Basketball Coaches Association convention held at the Final Four site. How much of that moola actually dries up as far as the local Black community is concerned?
The cold, hard fact is that most visitors rarely venture beyond downtown for at least two reasons: One, Black-owned establishments usually aren’t located within their “safe zone” (translation: not located downtown), and two, the local chamber of commerce and event organizers haven’t put them in their visitors’ guides.
“They don’t want it to go anywhere” past downtown, said “Mike,” a Black arena worker who talked with this reporter on how little if any visitors’ money ever ends up in the Black community.
“We as Black people have to hold them accountable.”
The Black community “has to be entrepreneurial-minded to benefit in these events,” admits Indianapolis Recorder Marketing Manager Ebony Chappell. The city’s Black newspaper ran Women’s Final Four ads on its website as well as published features and other articles leading up to the five-day event that concluded Tuesday.
“The money is circling around downtown because the people who are here [for the games] stay in the hotels, eating in the restaurants down here,” she said last week in an MSR phone interview. “A lot of that don’t filter out to the outlying communities.”
Anucha Browne oversees the operation and management of the NCAA women’s basketball championships. We asked her during a break in the action Monday if it is her role to ensure that the local Black community, whether in this city or elsewhere, gets its fair share all the way around, from fan events and parties to promoting Black-owned businesses to visitors.
“As far as diversity is concerned, we make sure that we do leave a lasting legacy in the communities at the Final Four,” said Browne. “We are engaged in the Indianapolis community, both the served and the underserved community.”
She pointed out that at least 2,000 Final Four tickets were set aside for community groups. “We want them to experience the Final Four,” said Browne. “The Indiana Sports Corporation has helped us identify where we can help. I think we are doing a lot in engaging our community.”
“We as Black people have to hold them accountable,” said Chappell. “All this commerce comes in, and there are some things we need help with that that money potentially can help. I think what we have to do as Black people is to not wait for someone come to us.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.