Sports have shaped Indianapolis—from the Indy 500 putting Speedway on the map to Super Bowl XLVI kicking off a wave of revitalization. More than 500 college and pro championships have happened here, and game days for the Pacers and Colts bring the community together.
So when Ryan Vaughn looked for a way to tell the city’s story, sports were a natural fit. As president of Indiana Sports Corp., he uses athletics to improve central Indiana. “Sport is a means to an end; it’s not the end for us,” explains Vaughn. “It’s really a vehicle by which we can activate and highlight what’s great about Indy.”
ISC’s newest event, the Indy Ultimate, does just that. This April, the urban adventure race will take participants on a six-mile path through downtown, with challenges at 11 Indianapolis landmarks. Events include kicking a field goal at Lucas Oil Stadium, making a jump shot at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, and running the bases at Victory Field. The course also celebrates Indy’s military and cultural history, with stops at the Indiana War Memorial and White River State Park.
Vaughn and his team want participants to celebrate Indy along the way. “We don’t want people just to run by. We want people to experience our city,” Vaughn says. “We’re looking to cure the challenge of telling our own story better, so we need people to have meaningful experiences that they’re willing to share with others about how great this city is.”
And because Indiana Sports Corp. wants as many people as possible to see what’s great about Indy, the Ultimate is accessible to everyone from dedicated athletes to dedicated couch potatoes. If you can walk an 18-minute mile, you can do the course.
“It’s not just for serious athletes and serious runners,” says Craig Lippincott, ISC’s director of business development. “A nice sector of athletic types and age ranges has already signed up for the event.”
Thus far, sign-ups include participants as young as 12 and as old as 67. Many are from Indy and the surrounding counties, but participants are also flying in from as far away as Seattle.
The Ultimate is just one of the ways ISC is using athletics to serve the community. Since becoming the nation’s first sports commission in 1979, the organization has worked to bring youth, collegiate, and professional sporting events to central Indiana, and every year, their sports clinics, fitness education, and other initiatives reach over 110,000 Indiana youth.
They’ve got a full lineup of events slated for the coming months, from the Big Ten Basketball Tournaments and NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships this March to the Women’s Final Four this April to the Countdown to Rio festivities celebrating the Rio Olympics this August. Vaughn says, “If you’re bored any weekend over the next six months, it’s your own fault.”
ISC’s mission is personal for Vaughn, who joined the commission after his tenure as (former) Mayor Ballard’s chief of staff. Having watched the Indy 500 since childhood and having experienced Super Bowl XLVI along with the rest of the city, he’s seen firsthand how sports spark civic pride, and he wants to use that to Indy’s full advantage.
And yes, in case you’re wondering, Vaughn will be participating in the Indy Ultimate, along with up to 3,000 other racers. If you want to see him running up the steps of the Indiana War Memorial, you’ll have to come out for the event.