INDIANAPOLIS — One month in, city leaders say they are happily surprised with the response to SPARK on Monument Circle.
The project is a first of its kind for the city, so officials weren’t quite sure what to expect, but they say the feedback has been positive.
”It’s just a really nice place to come and decompress,” said Addison Wine.
Wine was eating lunch with two coworkers, Jarrod Rice and Ethan Hardcastle, at SPARK Tuesday afternoon. The trio works close by and said they come to SPARK every day the weather is nice to eat lunch.
”Gotta escape the office at some point, you know,” said Rice.
Before SPARK, the lunch setup wasn’t quite as comfortable.
”We used to actually go and sit on the hard steps and eat lunch, so it’s been nice actually having a chair and some space and some shade,” Wine said.
Those three were among the many out on SPARK during a cloudy Wednesday.
Ken Hopson works a few blocks away. Wednesday was her second day at SPARK this week.
”I watched yesterday the young lady sing and just play the guitar,” Hopson said.
Taylor Schaffer, the President and CEO of Downtown Indy Inc, said the project was a group effort between several Indy organizations.
”I think it’s transformed the way Monument Circle looks and feels and taken what is arguably one of our city’s most iconic areas and transformed it into a space for people to be able to enjoy,” she said.
Their strategy to keep the area popular is about being consistent both with maintenance.
”We have people coming into the space and cleaning,” Schaffer said. “We have 24 hour on site security.”
The other component is making sure there is always something at SPARK for people to enjoy.
and with what is here for people to enjoy.
”We’re not asking folks to know when something is going on, but instead, to know something is always going on,” she said.
SPARK is open from 11 a.m. until dusk every day and offers a variety of games, interactions and food trucks.
”No matter the time of day, if Spark on the Circle is open, they can have something to eat or drink, they can enjoy the area,” Schaffer said. “There might be a performance happening, there might be a community partner in the area.”
SPARK also has different events each week. Thursday there will be smores and dance classes. Friday there will be DCI Arts and Culture.
”We’ve gotten free ice cream here, we’ve seen some live music, poetry,” Wine said. “It’s fun to see whatever is going on for the day.”
Downtown Indy Inc. uses a location intelligence software called Placer.ai to track how many people are visiting SPARK.
Between when SPARK started on July 8 and Aug 5, 15,000 visitors checked out the urban park.
”On average folks are staying about an hour and that is really great for local businesses because when folks are staying around that means they’re spending money,” said Rusty Carr, the Executive Director of the Indianapolis Dept. of Metropolitan Development.
The data shows this is a 40% increase compared to the same period in 2022.
”This has really even blown a lot of our expectations out of the water,” Carr said.
SPARK isn’t just for Hoosiers, Carr said they want to make sure it’s available and exciting for people visiting any number of Indy conventions.
”We know our visitors are already looking for the next interesting thing when they are coming to this space,” he said.
As for the future of SPARK, it will remain on the SW quadrant of the circle until early November and then shut down for the winter. Carr does expect it to be back next year.
”We’re going to be back here next year,” Carr said. “I think we’re going to do some extended hours, test some things based on data we’re collecting now.”
As for if SPARK could ever take over the entirety of Monument Circle, Carr said “Never say never.”
”I think it’s been really successful over the first month and we’re excited to see that through,” Carr said. “I think the important thing to think about with the circle is the space is really big, until you’re down here sometimes you might forget that, but what we don’t want to do is close more parts of the circle and have them empty or underutilized.”
Both Carr and Schaffer said they’re excited to see SPARK grow.