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The Indiana Daily Student

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A look at Indianapolis’ rare approach with host venues for 2024 NBA All-Star weekend

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Editor’s note: This is part of a series of stories about NBA All-Star Weekend by students in an IU Media School sports reporting class. Read the rest of the stories on our website.

As 2024 NBA All-Star weekend prepares to kick things off, host city Indianapolis finally gets to achieve a long-anticipated moment. After being delayed by three years, Circle City at last serves as host to All-Star weekend for the first time since 1985. 

The weekend will incorporate a rare twist. Events will be split up among the Pacers’ Gainbridge Fieldhouse and the Colts’ Lucas Oil Stadium — only the fifth time a host city has used an NFL or MLB stadium.  

Even more historic, 2024 is the first instance of an NFL or MLB stadium being used but not as the site for the actual All-Star Game. Despite Lucas Oil Stadium possessing a much larger capacity, the Pacers and NBA elected to hold the main event in Gainbridge Fieldhouse. The question is why. 

Indianapolis’ postponement in 2021 opened up several new opportunities. The original weekend would have been a low-contact and limited weekend due to the nature of COVID-19 and rules in place in the state at the time, but now the city gets an opportunity to produce its best All-Star experience possible. 

As another silver lining, Gainbridge completed three phases of renovations nearing $400 million, the second-largest renovation of an NBA arena ever, in August 2023. Danny Lopez, Pacers vice president for external affairs and corporate communications, identified the renovation as one of the primary catalysts to feature Gainbridge Fieldhouse as the host to the All-Star Game, something Pacers owner Herb Simon was adamant about. 

“It’s a brand new building; it’s state of the art,” Lopez said Feb. 7. “It’s beautiful, and we wanted to show it off. It was important for Herb and for the league to have the game in Gainbridge.” 

The renovations not only upgraded the inside of the arena but also the area surrounding it. In addition to an improved scoreboard, better seating, new concessions and more, the Bicentennial Unity Plaza was built just outside the Pacers’ home. The plaza, which features a basketball court and art installations, encapsulates the Pacers’ emphasis on accessibility. 

“We wanted to figure out ways that we could make this the most accessible, the most fan-centric or community-centric All-Star ever,” Lopez said. 

The plaza will also serve another purpose. Tamika Catchings and comedian and Indianapolis native Mike Epps kicked off 2024 NBA All-Star weekend with an official opening ceremony Thursday night. 

Indianapolis’ community-centric mindset was at the forefront of its planning with the NBA, Lopez said, such as providing affordable tickets. He said the Pacers put 10,500 tickets on sale from a $24-$79 range exclusively for Indiana residents in addition to distributing 2,400 free tickets through community centers. 

Lucas Oil Stadium’s capacity and proximity to Gainbridge Fieldhouse makes the Colts’ home a viable resource for All-Star weekend by creating opportunities for the community few places can. 

“Being able to host all of those marquee events within four blocks of each other, it just creates an incredible fan experience,” Dianna Boyce, elected vice president of 2021 All-Star, Inc., said Feb. 12. “In other markets you would pick one or the other, and here you’re able to do both.” 

Lucas Oil Stadium is set to host Friday night’s Celebrity Game and Saturday night’s series of events rather than the All-Star Game. Boyce, who retained her position despite the three-year postponement, said it was never actually a conversation point as the site for the actual game. 

The opportunity to use both venues is one few host cities can boast. However, Lopez identified one difficulty that comes with the dual set up is having to design and produce two setups in different venues. 

One prevalent question mark was how Lucas Oil Stadium will display its All-Star activities, as its massive scaling difference between the regular turf field and a basketball court presents several options on how it will be set up. 

Boyce said Lucas Oil Stadium will deploy a “regional set” style. The main court will be perpendicular to the bleachers as opposed to the normal parallel set up for the football field, but it will still have seating on all four sides.  

On the backside of the court will be a second court for Jr. NBA activities and a large area dedicated to NBA Cares All-Star Day of Service. The Day of Service includes 24 hours of meal packing with the help of over 6,000 volunteers with plans to box one million meals.  

Boyce said the NBA normally deploys a corporate-style approach with added party-like elements in All-Star host cities, but the league allowed the Pacers to explore ways to connect the community. 

“They have been very open to our ideas on how we can do that, and Lucas Oil Stadium was one of those,” Boyce said.

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