News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Max Jones

February 13, 2012

MAX JONES: It is amazing what an energized downtown can do

For those of us who’ve watched the inspired growth and development of downtown Indianapolis through the years, it’s hard to understand sometimes the amazement some express at what’s been created.

It didn’t happen overnight. And it didn’t happen in a vacuum. So I can’t help but be amused at the raves Indiana’s capital city is receiving in wake of the recent Super Bowl spectacle, which raised Indy’s profile to new heights — both nationally and internationally.

The sports facilities are great!

Yeah, they’ve been good and getting better for a while now. Lucas Oil Stadium — which replaced the old Hoosier Dome (I never liked calling it the RCA Dome) — certainly is the biggest jewel in an already shiny crown.

The events were so organized and the city handled the crush of people in such a professional way!

Remember, while this was the biggest test to date, it was not Indy’s first big-time rodeo. The city has hosted the Pan Am Games, major NCAA tournaments (including Final Fours and the first-ever Big Ten Football Championship just last December), and for a century has been home to the Indianapolis 500 auto race (props to Terre Haute’s Tony Hulman for creating what that spectacle eventually became). There is probably nothing Indy can’t handle.

The city is so compact. Everything is within walking distance!

Ah, the beauty of a walkable downtown. That’s among the main reasons a small city such as New Orleans has been able to be a successful host to major events, including multiple Super Bowls. (Bourbon Street and the Super Dome have helped, of course.) Indy has seized upon that model.

From accounts I’ve read and heard, downtown Indy was a highly energized place during Super Bowl weekend and the preceding week. I didn’t venture into that madness, but was there for a couple days the previous week. The anticipation was evident, the city looked great and new amenities were striking. The reconstructed Georgia Street pedestrian walkway that links Conseco Fieldhouse (oops, make that Bankers Life Fieldhouse) and the entrance to the Indiana Convention Center is spectacular.

As “outstaters,” the not-always-affectionate way Indy residents refer to the rest of us out here in Hoosier Land, we can be truly proud of what our state capital has accomplished. The entire state has benefited from Indy’s vision.

I hasten to add that Terre Haute will be experiencing an important moment in its rebirth in a few weeks when the IHSAA girls high school basketball championships are played at Hulman Center. While obviously on a much smaller scale, the potential impact on the city is nonetheless real.

Local development, commitment and spirit have been strong and getting stronger for years. What an event such as the IHSAA championships does is allow the city to boost its image among outsiders, especially visitors from other Hoosier communities.

Terre Haute has shown it can successfully handle extraordinary events such as the NCAA Cross Country Championships, Colts camp, etc. Now it has a chance to show off a little more for those who may not yet know about the progress.

Indianapolis is an example of what vision and energy can produce. Terre Haute is showing that even smaller cities can do so as well.

Max Jones can be reached at (812) 231-4336, or by email at Follow Max on Twitter: @TribStarMax.

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