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The Doers & Changemakers behind March Madness

Posted by: IndyHub
Posted: March 24, 2021
Categories: IndyHub

Indy was made for this moment. It’s no surprise that Indiana has a lengthy history when it comes to basketball. There is a reason why Indy keeps winning events and having success while executing them. Behind the innovation and creativity is our most valuable asset – our people.

Team Indy has come together yet again to dream, collaborate and inspire while putting our city in the national spotlight. We caught up with a few of our city’s change agents that are behind March Madness in Indy to learn more about their impact and their top suggestions for experiencing the city in March.

Ashley Haynes, Director of Marketing at Keep Indianapolis Beautiful

What role have you played in March Madness? When I think about Indy hosting the March Madness, I don’t think about how many three pointers were scored or the (pitiful) status of my bracket. To me, basketball in March means 12 miles of Indy streets, 200 bags of litter cleaned, 68 trees planted in the pouring rain, and 1 tournament powered by renewable energy. That is what makes Indy special — we took the tremendous opportunity of hosting the tournament and leveraged it for cleaner neighborhoods, more tree plantings, road repairs, and cleaner air. Keep Indianapolis Beautiful played a key role in leading Indy’s NCAA Sustainability Committee to keep the environmental impact of the games top of mind, but we didn’t do it alone. One of the first things I learned about Indy, when I moved here 8 years ago is this: “If you need help or have a question, ask. Indy is a place where people want to learn about you and want to help.” From arts to trees to hospitality to wind power to universities, people who don’t usually collaborate made the March Madness tournament possible — and set the bar high for major events in anywhere in the country.

What is something that residents can’t miss out on? While game attendance and in-person gatherings are limited, I encourage residents to head outside and feel the energy in the air. Maybe that’s taking a masked up walk with a friend downtown, checking out the 3-D bracket in the Bottleworks District, or shooting hoops in one of our city’s 212 Indy Parks. One constant reminder from your friendly neighborhood environmental nonprofit: Throw your trash away in a trash can. If you see litter on the ground, pick it up and throw it away. People make Indianapolis beautiful — and it’s up to each of us to keep it clean.

Ethan Hochstein, Horticulture Manager of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail

What role have you played in March Madness? The Cultural Trail team and I make sure the physical spaces of The Cultural Trail, Georgia Street and Lugar Plaza are ready to host people for March Madness. Preparations include landscaping the areas as well as site planning to make sure the spaces are safe for pedestrian traffic and everyone has enough room to socially distance.

In few sentences, tell us about your experience in this city-wide collaboration: It has been fast paced, highly collaborative, and surprising to see how everyone gets everything done in a short amount of time. There is a lot of trust and delegation involved to make sure it all happens. I was given the opening dates weeks ago and was asked to do my part to make the landscaping look nice and to assist in making sure all sites were ready to host local performers. After that direction it was assumed I would meet that mark by the time the event kicked off. Overall it has been a fun and exciting project, an event I wouldn’t have expected to be a part of when I took this job but very glad I am.

What is something that residents can’t miss out on? Residents need to set time aside to go walk along The Cultural Trail, plants are starting to emerge and Swish: LIVE performances have started. Swish is a diverse line up of 250+ musicians, spoken-word artists, dancers & more throughout downtown each week until April 6th. It’s free, its outdoors (with room to social distance) and it is paying local talent, even if you are not a basketball fan you should enjoy what is happening in Indy right now.

Mariah Ivey, Curator for Swish

What role have you played in March Madness? I am part of a nine member curatorial team, responsible for booking 250+ Indy performers across 3 stages and several pop-up locations during March Madness! 

In few sentences, tell us about your experience in this city-wide collaboration: This collaboration between myself, my fellow curators, Indy Arts Council, GangGang, The Cultural Trail, and the city of Indianapolis at large has not only been exhilarating and swift, it’s been extremely heart warming to see unfold. There are artists who haven’t touched a stage in over a year. There are many of us who haven’t had the pleasure of enjoying one another, let alone live music, in such a long time. To witness the creative aspect of March Madness is to nearly witness our community refueling itself through art, laughter, and familial interaction. I’m grateful we’ve been able to find a way to provide such an experience while following COVID protocols as closely as possible. 

What is something that residents can’t miss out on? I am most excited to bring That Peace Open Mic to March Madness, a full open mic show + jam session happening at Davlan Park on Saturday, April 3rd from 5p – 7p! My team and I are not only excited to create space for art, we’re excited to radically create space for JOY! If nothing else, I encourage folks to get out, walk around, and simply inhale the energy of our city right now. 

Brett Kramer, Director of Public Relations at Indiana Sports Corp

What role have you played in March Madness? I serve as the Local Media Coordinator for March Madness. This role includes managing all public relations aspects of the tournament outside of the venues while also overseeing the coordination all local media operations for the games. On game days you can find me inside of Lucas Oil Stadium as the media coordinator and on non-game days I’m out with media helping them get interviews and stories. There is a fun tradition that started at the 2010 Men’s Final Four in Indy where the Local Media Coordinator signs their name on a piece of signage that gets passed from host site to host site each year. On April 6, I will have the huge honor of signing my name and will also be the first female media coordinator in the past 11 years.

In few sentences, tell us about your experience in this city-wide collaboration: Since we announced on Jan. 4 that all 67 games of March Madness will take place in Indy, I have been extremely humbled by the amount of support and outreach our team at Indiana Sports Corp has received. We had just over 70 days to prepare for this once in a lifetime opportunity and could not have done it without the collaboration of community organizations and volunteers throughout the city. What makes Indy a premier event destination is it’s people. Our city is special in this regard and I’m so grateful to live and work in a place that truly puts community first.

What is something that residents can’t miss out on? I encourage all residents to come downtown and enjoy March Madness. Whether you want to have a first-hand look at the record-breaking bracket on the JW Marriott or stop by a Swish activation, there is plenty of fun to be had. The success of this event will be based on how the community embraces it. I have no doubt Hoosiers will show up and more importantly, show their Hoosier Hospitality to really make our city shine throughout March Madness.

Sampson Levingston, Storyteller and Lover of Indiana History

Through2Eyes

In a few sentences, can you tell us about your experience in this city-wide collaboration? It’s truly an honor to represent Indianapolis. Our basketball history and our passion for welcoming others to our city during a time says a lot about our community. The community is beyond energized to showcase our love for Indianapolis and the game of basketball, it’s just such a unique experience to host all these teams. I’m so honored that I’m able to display my passion, giving tours (now on wheels), to Indy residents and visitors to the city for March Madness. This moment truly shows how incredibly unique Indy is.

Stacia Murphy, Project Manager of Inclusive Growth at Develop Indy – Indy Chamber

What role have you played in March Madness? I am Chair of the Performing Arts Sub-committee, as part of the overall Welcoming Committee

In few sentences, tell us about your experience in this city-wide collaboration: Honestly, it’s been an exhausting and exhilarating experience being part of the planning for NCAA. Tiring, because it takes a lot of work, often behind the scenes. Exciting, because you see the best of the best of Indianapolis, coming together in a very collaborative way to make sure this event is smooth and amazing. It’s everything I love about Indy, and it takes many people to pull this off. I’m very grateful for the chance to work alongside the Arts Council, GangGang and the Cultural Trail. This absolutely would not have happened without them.

What are you most excited about? Out of everything happening during NCAA, I am most excited about the SWISH: Live Music & Art Experiences. With a diversity of almost 600 visual artists, musicians, dancers, and spoken word artists, downtown will come alive with three main stages and pop up performances. Who wouldn’t be excited about that?

Ashleigh Newbold, Director of Events at Indiana Sports Corp

What role have you played in March Madness? I have been serving as the Indiana Sports Corp Game Management & Game Presentation lead for the Final Four alongside two fantastic Committee Co-Chairs and an enthusiastic group of committee members with tons of knowledge and experience. This role includes managing all aspects of personnel needed for a successful Final Four – medical staffing, volunteers that assist with team movements, stage managers for flawless production and so many others that help make this tournament the experience of a lifetime. Additionally, I have assisted the NCAA inside the controlled environment working to coordinate meals, assisting with activities for teams like being able to play outside at Victory Field or taking pictures in front of the world’s largest bracket, assisting with practice operations inside the Indiana Convention Center and managing the process alongside IU Health for obtaining prescriptions needed. Anything that pops up, we’re ready to help!

In a few sentences, can you tell us about your experience in this city-wide collaboration? I’m jaw-dropped of how this all came together so quickly. The Final Four planning process alone takes well over a year (and then some). This was 2 months! The number of people willing to jump in and help immediately after the announcement was nothing short of overwhelmingly amazing and it all came together in the most Indy way possible – with creative, out-of-the-box ideas that generated excitement and showcased Indy’s vibrant culture. “We were made for this moment” is the most perfect campaign for how we have all rallied around this one goal and Indy’s comeback.

What is something that residents can’t miss out on? That is truly a tough question and hard to pick only one. This is a historic moment for our city so you can’t miss any of it! The signage and installations are incredible and a social media story dream. SWISH activations are serving up all different types of performances and infusing Indy art and culture into March Madness. Reese’s Final Four Friday is a free, family event and your opportunity to see the players up close as they practice and prepare for the final rounds of the Tournament (plus based on the sponsor I’m sure you can find some delicious treats). Also be sure to visit some of our local restaurants – they have been waiting all year for you!

Nate Swick, Communications Manager at ‎Visit Indy

What role have you played in March Madness? With all eyes on Indy, I’m most excited for more people around the country to get a taste of how great this city really is. My main role is working with visiting media; doing live interviews, scouting the best locations for standups and finding stories to tell. We have a unique opportunity to help shape the stories and perceptions of the city. I thrive on the natural buzz that takes over downtown when there are major events in the city. Sure, it’s a little bit different this year, but folks are still looking for ways to be a part of the action and the energy downtown is electric and I’m here for it all.

In a few sentences, can you tell us about your experience in this city-wide collaboration? I love how the city comes together when we need it most. “How can I help?” is something you hear over and over again. There’s no place like Indy for hosting major events. We’re always raising the bar and I know this time around we’ll rise to the occasion and set a new standard.

What is something that residents can’t miss out on? Do I have to pick just one? It’s hard to miss, but folks need to check out the world’s largest bracket on the side of the JW Marriott downtown. Now that thing is impressive. I’m also pumped for Sampson Levingston’s trolley and cycling tours of Indy’s rich basketball history. Lastly, I have to give a shoutout to my alma mater, Butler. How cool is it that there are NCAA Tournament games taking place inside historic Hinkle Fieldhouse? This whole month is full of reasons to love our city.

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