Sports are an integral part of Indiana’s proud heritage and continued growth. The state is home to the NCAA, USA Gymnastics, USA Track and Field, USA Diving, USA Football and a multitude of other governing bodies. Indiana has also hosted hundreds of collegiate and Olympic national and international championships.
With so many athletic competitions seeking a host site on a regular basis, the state relies on the efforts of Sports Indiana, a private, not-for profit organization comprised of allied sports and tourism representatives, to help attract some of those events.
Sports Indiana’s mission is to promote sports tourism and positive economic development statewide through a variety of sports and sporting events. Since 2011, the organization has been doing just that thanks in part to grants created from funding by the Lt. Governor’s Office and the Indiana Office of Tourism Development. The goal behind these grants is to assist communities in attracting and growing high-quality sporting events to generate significant economic impact through participant spending.
The grants not only cover traditional sports like baseball, basketball, golf and soccer, they also help fund niche sporting events like archery, boat racing, disc golf, water polo and curling. South Bend, which accommodates huge college football games a half dozen times every year as home of the University of Notre Dame, benefited from a grant in 2017 when it hosted the USA Arena Curling National Championship.
“The (curling national championship) was the first big curling event held in South Bend,” said Nick Kleva, sports market development director of Visit South Bend Mishawaka. “Curling was first introduced in South Bend when the Compton Family Ice Arena opened in 2011. Visit South Bend Mishawaka was going after this event shortly after the facility opened, and finally, in 2014, South Bend and Notre Dame was awarded the arena championships.”
“VSBM had to cover all the costs for the event, which were more than we expected,” Kleva added. “The Sports Indiana grant helped cover the cost of the event, especially the ice costs for five days. Without this grant, VSBM probably wouldn’t have been able to host this event. It is a great benefit to have access being a member of Sports Indiana. It gives our community the opportunity to host bigger events that otherwise we wouldn’t be able to host. We will definitely use the grant program for other events in the future.”
From 2011 to 2017, $553,900 in grant money was awarded to 76 events throughout the state. These events, which took place in 28 cities and assisted 26 different types of sports, attracted more than 101,082 participants and 1 million spectators and generated at least 13 million hotel room nights. One-third of the visitors who attended these events were from out-of-state.
Among the cities that received aid from grant funding are Elkhart (2016 Amateur Softball Association’s Men’s Fast Pitch Open East Championships), Bloomington (2017 USA Water Polo Champions Cup), Michigan City (9th Annual Great Lakes Grand Prix in 2017), Evansville (2018 Ohio Valley Conference Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships), Columbus (2016 USSSA Great Lakes World Series), and Fort Wayne (2018 Adaptive Sports USA Junior Nationals).
“Riverview Park Softball Complex in Elkhart will host the USA Softball Fast Pitch Men’s Open East National Championships for the third consecutive year in 2018,” said Elkhart Mayor Tim Neese. “Sports Indiana has been a sponsor of the event for two of the last three years. The 2016 tournament coincided with Riverview Park’s 50th anniversary and was the first national championship ever hosted by the city. The City of Elkhart is grateful for the opportunity to partner with Sports Indiana and work together to provide an added amenity to residents and reinforce our city parks as economic drivers for the community, crucial to future talent attraction and retention.”
“Terre Haute had applied for the Sports Indiana grant to help welcome cross-country participants and fans to the 2016 NCAA Div. I Cross Country Championships held at the LaVern Gibson Championship Course,” said David Patterson, executive director of the Terre Haute Convention & Visitors Bureau. “As many know, unfortunately, the sport of cross-country does not always get a lot of media coverage. This grant assisted with outfitting the Indianapolis airport and showed the heralded sport in a positive light. The welcome display and video board made the runners feel good and important, but it really helped with the fan experience as well. Again, this grant helped us promote the sport of cross-country, the specific event we hosted and helped us with possible future bids all at the same time.” While the grants tend to focus mostly on amateur and youth sports, they also have been used to attract some professional competitions. Recent pro events the grants have helped bring to Indiana include the Tyr Pro Swim Series (which took place in May 2018 at the Indiana University Natatorium in Indianapolis).
With amateur, youth and professional sports continuing to grow in popularity and communities increasingly relying on these events for financial gain, initiatives like Indiana’s grant program become more important by the day. Fortunately for the Hoosier State, this program is situated to facilitate that growth and keep Indiana active for years, and generations to come.
“The Sports Indiana grant program is a huge asset that allows us to be competitive with other cities around the country,” said William Knox, Sports Indiana president. “Because of grants, our communities have had the opportunity to host events like the Big Ten Men’s Soccer Championships, Adaptive Sports USA Junior Nationals and the Ohio Valley Conference Basketball Championships, all of which have a significant economic impact. The grants are also important for creating memorable experiences for event owners, participants, and spectators that make them want to come back to Indiana again and again.”