Big Ideas From Indy's Past

To complement our August cover package on how to make Indy a model city, we dug up a few concepts from yesteryear.

Steamboat Port Sinks

Despite the White River’s reputation for sandbars, drifts, and obstacles galore, the city’s early settlers were determined to turn Indy into a steamboat port. Governor Noah Noble offered $200 to the first captain who made it upstream to the new state capitol. Several tried and failed, but in the spring of 1831, the Steamboat Robert Hanna succeeded, proving that the White River was indeed “navigable.” That is, until the Robert Hanna resumed its journey upstream and immediately ran aground.
AirplaneGentlemen, Prepare for Take-off
Helicopters occasionally touch down at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but planes? IMS almost landed the city’s first airport. In 1926, city leaders negotiated a deal with track owners to use the massive infield as a landing spot. President Calvin Coolidge planned to attend the dedication, but the new airport was rerouted at the last minute after IMS owners opted out.
FootballIf You Build It
Talk about a Hail Mary. In 1982, city leaders built an NFL stadium without a team. Developer Robert Welch briefly courted the New Orleans Saints, but it was the “706 Club,” (named for the room where the city’s power brokers huddled at the Columbia Club) that made the covert play for the Baltimore Colts.
BaseballMLB Strikes Out
After tackling pro football, city leaders went to bat for major league baseball. Then-Mayor Bill Hudnut even met with commissioner Bowie Kuhn to pitch an expansion team. And in the summer of ’85, a group of investors announced plans to buy the Pittsburgh Pirates and rename them the Indianapolis Arrows. The team never made it to first base. For one, the Hoosier Dome wasn’t built for the boys of summer—during an old-timers game, Hank Aaron and other big hitters kept knocking it into the nosebleed section. And the city was already in love with the triple-A Indians.
This article appeared in the August 2014 issue.