As originally seen in Associations Now.
As you research future meeting sites for your organization, seek out cities that already embrace your organization’s mission and ideas. An existing connection to a city can provide additional perks, such as access to experts, prime locations, enthusiastic volunteers and a pool of potential attendees.
The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) hosted its 100th annual meeting in Indianapolis June 28–July 2, 2019, knowing the sports-loving city would welcome the event and offer advantages over other cities.
“Indianapolis has done an exceptional job in embracing the sports culture, which in turn attracts volunteers as well as state-of-the-art facilities that are available,” says Mark Koski, director of marketing for NFHS and CEO of NFHS Network.
Headquartered in Indianapolis, NFHS is the national leadership organization for high school sports and activities. Under the NFHS umbrella are 19,500 high schools, 1.6 million coaches, 12 million student participants and 500,000 officials. Eight million of the students take part in sports, while the other 4 million are in activities such as speech and debate, music, drama, band and more.
As you plan future meetings, you want a city that already understands your attendees’ needs and areas of interest. Does the city offer venues that match your plans for receptions and pre-conference activities? Does the city offer enticing tours and extracurricular activities your attendees can’t say no to?
Meeting planners can partner with the IUPUI Sports Innovation Institute to scale up their event operations. The Institute blends academic thinking with an entrepreneurial spirit to create, discover and promote unique products, services and game-day experiences. Talented college students work with conferences via the Institute so they can gain valuable experience and build connections with event attendees, says David Pierce, director of the Institute. “We also use human-centered design to innovate and enhance the event experience for attendees,” he adds.
The Institute has also conducted several fan and visitor experience studies for pro sports teams and major events that come to Indianapolis. “We give students next-level research experiences and opportunities to be innovative in thinking about the next generation of events that come to Indy,” Pierce says. In turn, the Institute also provides planners with access to next-level research and thought leaders.
Indianapolis is well-known as the amateur sports capital of the world. Locals are more than happy to volunteer for events and welcome other sports fans to their spirited city.
During the NFHS centennial celebration, attendees visited the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and took in an Indians minor league baseball game. They were also able to tour the NFHS and NCAA headquarters – including the NCAA National Office, Conference Center, and Hall of Champions museum – which has made its home in the city for nearly 20 years.
In January 2000, both the NCAA and NFHS moved from Kansas City, Mo., to Indianapolis.
“We wanted to be in the hub of sport governing bodies, which is Indianapolis. Indy is a vibrant city with a strong sports infrastructure,” Koski says.
In 2010, USA Football also moved its headquarters to the capital of the Hoosier state, from Vienna, Va. The three organizations are sports governing bodies and, as such, are members of the U.S. Olympic Committee.
“Being in Indianapolis brings a lot of collaboration among the governing bodies,” Koski says. “We collaborate on many fronts, more so than if we were spread out across the country. We work to help the youth and provide education for coaches and training for officials.”
Indy was the first city to have a sports commission—Indiana Sports Corp—and is home to a new tech startup incubator focused on challenges in sports and sports events.
And the city knows how to host a major sports event, from the Super Bowl to many NCAA championships. In 2021–2022 the city will host the NCAA Men’s Final Four, NBA All-Star Game, NFL Combine, College Football Playoff National Championship and Big Ten events.