Indiana basketball has the destinations to attract visitors
Doyel: It’s the kind of story that makes our state the basketball state it is
IndyStar columnist Gregg Doyel traveled to Washington and discovered a great basketball story that reminds us why Indiana hoops are so awesome.
Gregg Doyel, [email protected]
INDIANAPOLIS – It starts under pictures and framed posters and newspaper clippings about basketball in Indiana. We are seated around a table at Plump’s Last Shot, the restaurant of Bobby Plump himself, hero of the Miracle of Milan in 1954. That’s where it starts.
Where does it go from here? We’ll just have to see, starting with the name. One idea is the “Hoosier Basketball Trail”, and it’s as good as any, but like everything else… we’ll see.
We’re talking about tourism in Indiana and basketball in Indiana, and we wonder why they can’t be the same. The idea is to connect the places that helped make Indiana the nation’s premier basketball state – Assembly Hall, Mackey Arena, Hinkle Fieldhouse, the Milan Museum, the Hoosier Gym in Knightstown, Crispus Attucks Museum, the list goes on – and turn this collection into a destination for people coming to the state anyway. Or who knows, if this thing takes off, maybe people will come here just for the basketball track.
Right now, for this first meeting on Monday, the Indiana Sports Corp is represented. The same goes for the Milan Museum, the Hoosier Gym, the Hinkle Fieldhouse and the Indiana Destination Development Corporation. The folks at Crispus Attucks and the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame pledged their support, but couldn’t. It happened quickly, and if you’re wondering why your favorite basketball destination wasn’t included, that’s why. The Pacers, the massive New Castle gym, the IU and Purdue facilities… look, we could go on and on to the historic basketball venues that weren’t featured on Monday at Plump’s final kick.
What’s the point, really.
No one else has this state’s basketball history. No one else has the basketball visitors that this state receives.
And no one has ever connected the two in some form of multi-level destination – the “Hoosier Basketball Trail” has a ring, doesn’t it? – for tourists or state residents or both.
“I find it hard to believe this hasn’t happened already,” says Graham Honaker, executive director of Butler and a member of the Milan museum’s board of trustees. “We miss the boat.
It’s time to bring this ship ashore.
“Think where they could go”
Tim Molinari begins this reunion by mentioning former Boston Celtics coach Red Auerbach and North Carolina State legend David Thompson, and while neither of them are from Indiana, we’ll just leave pass this. Because Molinari makes a good point, because it reminds us of something Auerbach once said about Thompson’s 48 inch vertical jump:
“It’s a unique advantage – something that no one else has,” Auerbach once said.
“Well,” says Molinari, director of development for the Milan ’54 Corporation, “we have a unique advantage. We have something else that no one can offer: we have strength in numbers.
He talks about basketball destinations, and he’s right. Lots of places have a lot of stuff, of course. In Kansas, they have Phog Allen Fieldhouse and James Naismith’s “Original Rules of Basket Ball” – they have those rules at Phog Allen Fieldhouse, actually – and that’s awesome. Kentucky has Rupp Arena, North Carolina has the basketball rich Triangle, New York has Madison Square Garden and Rucker Park and a few other places.
But we have Milan, the real story behind the movie “Hoosiers”, and we have the gymnasium where they shot the movie. We have Assembly Hall and Mackey Arena and Hinkle Fieldhouse. We have the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, with all of its memorabilia just down the street in New Castle from the largest high school gymnasium in the country. We have the park in Lebanon where Rick Mount perfected this shot, the place where John Wooden was born and raised, and the inadequate gymnasium where Ray Crowe coached Oscar Robertson and made Crispus Attucks the first fully state champion. black in the history of the United States.
And we have company coming to town.
“In 2022,” says man at the end of the table, Mike Karnuta of Indiana Sports Corp, “we’ll have the Big Ten Men’s Tournament, the Big Ten Women’s Tournament and the first two rounds of the NCAA Men’s. Tournament. The Final Four will be there in 2026.
“And the NBA All-Star Game in 2024,” someone else says. It could have been me.
“It’s a lot of special events,” says Karnuta, “and people who love basketball come to Indiana. They’ll want to experience something unique in Indiana, uniquely our heritage. .
Honaker declares: “The Final Four in 2026, touches wood, it is 70,000 visitors. On the Sunday between games, think about where they might go.
Said Karnuta, “And why wait until they are in Indiana to see these places?” Let’s go before they come here. Everything is here.
Across the table, Robert Garner from Hoosier Gym steps in.
“They can visit on their way around the state,” Garner says. “No matter where they’re from – Michigan, Kentucky, the west – there’s something on the way to town.
Karnuta, vice president of business development for Indiana Sports Corp, nods.
“We have to get the marketing part right,” he says, “but if we crack the code, we could have a destination as popular as the Bourbon Trail. “
Around the table, we cheer up even more. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail receives approximately one million visitors each year. Certainly in Kentucky they have something alluring, dare I say addicting: bourbon.
But so do we here in Indiana:
‘Hoosiers’ mate is right
A plan will form. Logistics will come. For now, we are spitting out ideas. Will the tour be virtual, with downloadable audio like they did on the Architecture Tour in Columbus, Indiana? Will tourists who visit a number of destinations win a prize? Say, a basketball signed by the last living Milan players? Two tickets to a Pacers game, or a game at Butler, Purdue or IU?
How many destinations will be on the track, anyway? Everyone has their suggestions, and I’ve heard at least 30 and nodded. I name smaller places like the quaint, charming Michigantown Gymnasium and the barn where James Dean – yes, that James Dean – shot hoops.
Don Burchett, who had a small role 35 years ago in “Hoosiers” and now plays a big role on the board of the Milan museum, mentions a sort of track “passport” and pulls out of his pocket a fictitious passport he worked on at home, just to show us what he’s talking about. This caught the attention of Noelle Szydlyk of the Indiana Destination Development Corporation, who says IDCC currently has two passport-style destinations – one for state parks, the other for a food trail – and says “We’re looking at the next step for our third one.”
Maybe that’s it.
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The desire is there. This is something we are sure of. Tom Kohlmeier, chairman of the Milan museum’s board, says the museum receives more international guests each year than Milan has residents.
“And there are 1,800 people in Milan,” he says.
Brad Long speaks now. Brad was one of the Hickory players in the movie “Hoosiers” – he was Buddy – and now he’s on the Milan museum board, and it’s a ball of energy that notes, “We have Something. I think there is something out there that for some reason during all these years we have been missing. Someone smarter than me must answer this question, but how do we market what we have? “
Now, Long is referring to something Robert Garner said earlier, that the Hoosier Gym receives around 70,000 visitors each year.
“Bob, you mention 70,000 visitors a year,” says Long. ” It’s incredible. I would like to bring them to Milan. The average Pennsylvania visitor, coming to see the hardwood floor where Coach Dale was talking to Cletus, may get more than they expected. It’s like we have all these unopened Christmas presents hidden behind the tree. It’s not a great analogy, but you know what I mean.
Around the table, we nod our heads.
“It’s the sum of all of those parts,” says Karnuta of Indiana Sports Corp. “The sum of the parts is greater than the whole. “
It could be something special. This is what we know. What is it, where it’s going, we’ll see, but the 2022 basketball schedule is coming – the Big Ten men’s and women’s tournaments, the first two rounds of the men’s NCAA tournament – and these folks are coming in. Indiana because they love basketball. Another target to hit is the All-Star Game in 2024 in Indianapolis. The Final Four 2026 is another, if that takes time. But why not earlier? Why not now? Why hasn’t that happened before, anyway?
“Think about how much we’ve heard in the last 45 minutes,” Don Burchett said near the end of our meeting. “Run it in your mind. As Mike (Karnuta) said, “It’s all there. I think we’ll go back to that day and say we were there when it started. I think it will explode. “
For more information or to offer a helping hand, you can leave a comment on the Milan Museum website at milan54.org/contact-us/, or email me at [email protected] .com or Tom Kohlmeier at [email protected]
Find IndyStar columnist Gregg Doyel on Twitter at @GreggDoyelStar or at www.facebook.com/gregg.doyel.
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