During the 1970s and 1980s, a small group of local professionals held a series of private meetings about Downtown Development and took steps to forge a positive image for Indianapolis. The group, whose existence was widely acknowledged but rarely publicized, consisted of approximately 30 men.

Most were bankers, lawyers, businessmen, and civic leaders, including Theodore R. Boehm, James A. Browning, Michael A. Carroll, David R. Frick, Thomas A. King, Stan Malless, William K. McGowan, Frank E. Mckinney Jr., James T. Morris, David S. Orr, and Sidney H. Weedman. The group also included four Indiana General Assembly legislators: William A. (Bill) Crawford, Eugene Henry (Ned) Lamkin, Louis Mahern, and John M. Mutz.

The City Committee’s greatest strength was its connection to prominent institutions and organizations throughout Indianapolis, including Lilly Endowment, Inc.American Fletcher National Bank, Ameritech, Browning Day, Indiana Pacers, Indianapolis Colts, Indianapolis Chamber Of Commerce, Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association (now known as Visit Indy), and the administration of Mayor William H. Hudnut Iii. These connections provided the necessary financial and political resources for the group to achieve its goals.

Of special importance was the committee’s sports initiative, which marketed Indianapolis as a venue for sports events and as the headquarters for sports organizations. This theme was selected as a focal point partly because of downtown assets already in place, such as the Indiana Convention Center, Market Square Arena, and the headquarters of the Amateur Athletic Union (Aau).

In 1979, Indiana Sports Corporation was established to implement the committee’s sports plan. In addition to persuading sports organizations, such as the various Amateur Sports Governing Bodies, to make their home in Indianapolis, the agency also bid on major sporting events. Two of the biggest competitions hosted by the city were National Sports Festival Iv (1982) and the Tenth Pan American Games (1987).

Along with its sports initiative, the City Committee’s downtown strategy also included the development of White River State Park and Circle Centre Mall. These cultural venues were promoted alongside the city’s sports attractions as part of an image-building campaign produced by Indianapolis Project, Inc.

While the City Committee played a major role in downtown’s development, the group’s exclusivity was criticized. There were no women and only one member of color (Crawford). In addition, many critics felt the group’s revitalization efforts focused too much on sports and not enough on other issues such as education, employment, and housing.

Such criticisms discouraged some members of the committee. By the end of the 1980s, the group’s momentum had decreased as a decade’s worth of revitalization projects, which culminated with the Tenth Pan American Games, resulted in fatigue.

Sometime before the mayoral election of 1991, the City Committee disbanded. Most of its members, however, remained influential in leading social, political, and business circles throughout the city.

Revised July 2021

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