INDIANAPOLIS — Tuesday will mark 500 days until NBA All Star Weekend 2024. The long-awaited game and festivities have been in the works since 2017 but were postponed because of the pandemic.
At the same time, the final phase of $360 million in renovations finished up in Gainbridge Field House just days before. Fans will now find new seats, new bars, new to-go concessions and more on the third level of Gainbridge.
Post Malone performed Sunday night to more than 12,000 people crowded into Gainbridge for the first concert with these new renovations.
”People had a great time, the fans were into it,” said Danny Lopez, the VP of External Affairs and Corporate Communications for Pacers Sports & Entertainment.
Lopez said they have already heard great reviews of the grab-and-go concessions, something they have added more of on the third level.
”Come in, swipe their card, grab what they want from the refrigerator or shelves and walk out and be billed automatically,” Lopez said. “That just gives it such an upgraded feel, it’s expedient.”
The changes to Gainbirdge mark a three phase project that’s happened over the last three years, with a lot of construction work happening in the summer and NBA off season. It’s the second biggest arena renovation in NBA history.
Lopez said it’s about more than basketball, they’re trying to build experiences within the experience of the event inside Gainbridge.
”Fans in 2022 and beyond, they’re looking for not just someplace they can come and sit for three hours and watch a basketball game, watch an event, watch a concert but come watch an event, enjoy the basketball game but also be able to congregate, be able to network, be able to spend time with the people they came with,” Lopez said.
Post Malone kicked off a list of big acts coming to Gainbridge this year.
“Of course, we have Lizzo coming up, we have Kevin Hart coming up, we have Reba and Carrie Underwood and then, of course, Andrea Bocelli for the first time in Indiana ever,” Lopez said.
Not to mention the Indiana Pacers playing preseason action at Gainbridge on Oct. 12 and 14, before the home opener on Oct 19 against the Washington Wizards.
Even bigger events are on the horizon for Gainbridge Field House and the team behind it. Tuesday will mark 500 days until the eyes of the basketball world are trained on the Hoosier state for NBA All Star Weekend 2024.
”I think we’re going to redefine what the All Star Weekend is for the NBA,” said Mel Raines, the president and COO of Pacers Sports & Entertainment.
Raines also serves as the president of the 2024 All Star Host Committee. She and others hosted a press conference to kick off what she called the busiest 500 days of planning for the weekend.
”It’s really an impetus for us to get a chance to restart everything we had planned, we went dormant for a little bit after 2021 and now we’re back on the clock,” she said.
Indy was originally supposed to host the 2021 NBA All Star Game but that was put on hold because of the pandemic. The silver lining there is the renovations inside Gainbridge will be done for the event, along with the Bicentennial Unity Plaza right next to Gainbridge.
”Big public art installation, a lot of green space, basketball court, an ice skating rink larger than the one in Rockefeller Center,” Lopez said. “It’s just going to be an amazing public space.”
The plaza should be ready and open to the public in the spring of 2023, plenty of time before the big weekend.
On Monday, Raines along with the President and CEO of the Indy Arts Council, Julie Goodman, announced a new effort to bring together NBA All Star Weekend and Hoosier artists.
”We’re going to be celebrating 24 stories of basketball history from across Indiana and engaging 24 artists to interpret those stories on a basketball sculpture,” Goodman said.
They’re calling it Hoosier Historia. A committee of basketball historians, former coaches and players, journalists and more will be brought together to create a list of the best basketball moments in Indiana history. The publics’ help is welcomed, too.
”We want the public involved, we want them to vote on their favorite moments,” Raines said.
Artists from across Indiana are also invited to apply for a chance to be commissioned to work on one of the 24 sculptures. They will be displayed throughout Gainbridge and downtown Indy during All Star Weekend before finding permanent homes around Indianapolis and the state.
This is only the latest connection between the Pacers and the Indy Arts Council. Fans in Gainbridge this year will notice more than 60 new works of art made by 23 local artists across the arena.
”Also telling stories of basketball, of Pacers history, of some of our favorite moments,” Goodman said.
There are two free opportunities to come and check out the new Gainbridge Field House. Fan Jam on Sunday, giving Pacers faithful a chance to check out the team ahead of the start of the season. There is also an art open house on Monday to show the public all the new local art here at Gainbridge.