NCAA leaders were welcomed to their future hometown Sunday, a day after announcing the college sports organizing body will move its headquarters and Hall of Champions to Indianapolis.
They were greeted by Gov. Frank O'Bannon, city officials and business leaders - the consortium that put together the $50 million incentive package that lured the NCAA from its longtime home in Overland Park, Kan."We feel like we've been embraced by this particular city and this state," NCAA executive director Cedric Dempsey said at a news conference in O'Bannon's office. "That part of it made it an easy decision for us in some respects."
An NCAA committee voted 7-1 to move its headquarters to Indianapolis instead of Kansas City, Mo., the two finalists among about 10 cities that made competitive bids nearly two years ago.
While a timetable for the move is not complete, Dempsey said Sunday he would like to be in the new facility by late summer of 1999 or spring of 2000. The NCAA's lease in Overland Park expires at the end of January 2000.
In the meantime, O'Bannon and city leaders continued to exude the giddy feeling they demonstrated the day before.
O'Bannon called it a "historic day for the state of Indiana." Eli Lilly & Co. Chairman Randall Tobias, a major player in putting together the incentive package, said Hoosiers will always remember where they were when they heard the news the NCAA was coming.
While that may or may not be true, landing the NCAA is the culmination - or the continuation, officials say - of the city's two-decade long crusade to transform itself into the "amateur sports capital of the world."
"People have asked us many times why have we selected Indianapolis," Dempsey said. "I think all of us remember during our visit one thing that was said to us: `You've been working on this project for 18 months; the city of Indianapolis has been working on this project for 20 years."'
The city's efforts began to pay off with the 1982 National Sports Festival and the 1987 Pan American Games. The city built world-class facilities for swimming and track and field in preparation for the events.
Since then, the NCAA and Indianapolis have grown increasingly close as dozens of national championships in various sports have been held in the city.
With such a bond already in place, civic, business and political leaders worked over the last two years to solidify it. The $50 million bid was criticized by some - in Indiana, as well as Kansas City - as too high.
But, supporters argued the NCAA's relocation will undoubtedly mean even more championships in the city, bringing millions of dollars. Also, the NCAA has scores of meetings each year that will fill hotel rooms, restaurants and shopping areas.
"It's a big investment, a good investment," O'Bannon said. "A return will come back to the state of Indiana many, many times over."
The $50 million package includes $15 million in pledges from local business and $10 million from the Lilly Endowment, the state's leading philanthropic group. The state of Indiana has approved $10 million in cash and $10 million in non-cash support.
Other government and philanthropic sources will be tapped to make up the rest.