I’ve noticed that some sporting events are shown in Midtown plaza while others are not. How do you decide what is shown?

We would show everything if we could. Unfortunately, there are many hurdles that need to be cleared before we can show sports events on the big screen. And not all of our attempts have been successful.

The first thing you need to know is that the City needs permission to show live sporting events on a public TV screen. As an example, for the past few Olympics (both summer and winter) we have been able to work with the network and the Olympics to get permission to show the Games (on screens that we rented). Similarly, when the NCAA played its tournament – both men and women – in March, we were able to get a quick OK from the NCAA to show any and all games on the big screen. Over the past few years – even before we had the Midtown screen – the City has broadcast the World Cup soccer finals – both men and women.

But not all sports leagues play by the same rules.

But not all sports leagues play by the same rules. For example, when we heard requests from our local residents and visitors that they wanted to watch IU and Purdue basketball and football games, we reached out to the NCAA and were surprised to learn that each school has the power to approve such things, not the sanctioning body itself (except for the tournament). So we called our big hitters in Indiana – including IU, Purdue, Notre Dame and Butler. We were able to get “blanket permission” from IU and Purdue but we have not been as successful with Notre Dame and Butler.

As for professional sports, we have been very fortunate to establish a great relationship with the Colts. Two year ago, before the pandemic, we hosted one of their first official “suburban” watch parties when the Colts played away at Pittsburgh. We had a huge crowd at Midtown and the Colts Events crew participated by bringing up some of their fan experiences, cheerleaders, Blue the mascot and other features. It was a great day. But, the NFL has tighter rules than most and we were only approved to show that one game. We reconnected in April of this year to show the NFL Draft with a bit of a lesser promotional feel (to keep the crowd size down in our pandemic times) and we hope to continue to develop a relationship so that we can show more games on the big screen in the future.

On the other hand, the Indiana Pacers never returned our call and without their permission and/or an OK from the NBA, we cannot show any of their games. As for the women’s side of pro sports, the president of the Indiana Fever came to Carmel when Midtown Plaza opened and immediately gave the City permission to show any and all Fever games. We look forward to their season starting.

When it comes to Major League Baseball, we were told to reach out to individual teams to get permissions. Both the Cincinnati Reds and Chicago Cubs were quick to give us the OK to show their games when we can. And last year, we were able to show the World Series, thanks to our local network station who helped us get permission. Meanwhile, we continue to work on permissions to show major events like the Indy 500, the summer Olympic games, etc.

On a more local level, the great athletic department at Carmel High School has given us permission to show CHS sports on the big screen whenever possible. We had some technical glitches during their recent run to the state championship, but we hope to continue to work to get some Carmel football and basketball games on the screen in the future.

As a footnote: Because we rely on a local cable TV provider, we must also work through various sports TV blackouts that sometime prevent us from getting the right channel on our cable connection at Midtown. And sometimes it has nothing to with blackouts, for example, we were poised to show a lot of Cubs games this year, but they switched to their own station to show their games and our current cable provider does not carry that station. So we can only show the Cubs when they play the Reds or play on a national network such as ESPN.

Lots of hurdles and lots of hoops, but the City’s Community Relations and Economic Development Team tries very hard to stay on top of fluctuating rules and schedules to provide as much live sports action as possible.

Authored by Laura Campbell, Sue Finkam, Kevin Rider, Jeff Worrell, Sue Finkam, Miles Nelson, Anthony Green and Adam Aasen.