Indianapolis, Indiana is a bull’s eye for sports tourism. Hoosier basketball hysteria, the roaring Indy 500, and the cinematic cycling classic “Breaking Away” are proof of Indiana’s longstanding love affair with sports.
On race day alone, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) attracts more than 300,000 fans to watch the fast-paced sport of auto racing. The IMS also welcomes guests 363 days a year and hosts tour groups of nearly any size on an array of tours, even giving the opportunity to take part in the tradition of kissing the yard of bricks at the race’s start/finish line, just like racing champions. Built in 1909, the speedway is now home to a museum, where groups can tour The Winners Gallery, which features 30 winning Indy race cars, as well as other rotating exhibits. Visitors emerge in front of the museum from beneath the racetrack and “are always amazed at the size of the speedway,” says Amanda Stanley, director of communications at IMS. Racing fans in Indy also frequently add Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park to their itineraries. The park features an oval track, a road course, and a drag strip, which is among the premier drag-racing venues in the world.
In Indianapolis, Lucas Oil Stadium is home to the Indianapolis Colts, NCAA men’s basketball Final Four games, and Big Ten football championships. It’s also a concert venue for big names like Taylor Swift and Mötley Crüe, and hosts conventions, meetings, and events. Groups also visit the facility for guided tours that allow guests to peek in on the stadium’s press box, field, locker rooms, and suites.
Another huge attraction in town is the 30,000-square-foot NCAA Hall of Champions, with two dramatic levels of interactive exhibits and a conference center that hosts everything from weddings to large company retreats. Four football players in the “Flying Wedge” formation greet visitors at the entrance to The Hall of Champions, where all 24 NCAA sports are represented with current team rankings, video highlights, and artifacts donated by colleges around the country. “People love the 1930s retro gym, where they can shoot baskets and simulate shooting famous shots while standing on disks that represent historic NCAA basketball moments,” says spokesperson Kortni Gurganus-Wright. Nearby, participatory simulators give visitors a chance to play sports like football, basketball, soccer, hockey, and baseball.
Get Active in Indianapolis & Beyond
The 15,000-acre Indiana Dunes National Park is one of the country’s newest national parks and features miles of trails both in the dunes and along Lake Michigan’s shoreline. Pokagon State Park in Angola, close to Fort Wayne, is among 24 state parks, and has a quarter-mile seasonal toboggan run that drops 90 feet and serves around 90,000 riders annually. In warmer seasons, the park offers swimming and boating on Lake James.
The Hoosier Gym in Knightstown welcomes tour groups interested in the 1985 movie “Hoosiers.” Home to the underdog state champion Hickory Huskers, and a featured location in the movie, the gym is open for tours and basketball games.
In Westfield, Grand Park Sports Campus not only attracts thousands of visitors as the Indianapolis Colts’ summer training camp, but it also has dozens of indoor and outdoor fields and courts for multiple sports tournaments.
Article by Mark Shuman
Main Image: Lucas Oil Stadium; Credit: Visit Indy