Friday, April 13, 2012

A Missed Opportunity? Indianapolis and the Zipline

One of the most talked about attractions during the recent Super Bowl festivities in Indianapolis was the zipline that ran for several blocks down the center of Capitol Avenue. People waited in line for hours to pay $10 for the brief thrill. Thousands had the opportunity (I, unfortunately, never managed to…). It was featured on TV coverage and provided an exciting backdrop to much of the anchor coverage from Super Bowl Village.

But then the game was played, the crowds went home, Super Bowl Village was dismantled, and down came the zipline.

Shortly thereafter, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway talked about possibly installing a zipline for the Indianapolis 500. Ultimately, they chose not to do so. But I think the idea of a zipline at the Speedway missed the point. You see, I don’t think that people were so excited about the zipline per se; after all, there are ziplines that can be found all over (this website lists five in Indiana). Instead, I think that there was something special about the location of Super Bowl zipline … and I think that the City of Indianapolis will miss an opportunity if it doesn’t recognize that uniqueness and capitalize upon it.

So what do I think made the zipline unique? Simple: It’s location. It wasn’t in a remote state park; it wasn’t at an amusement park; it wasn’t at a venue known for sports or other activities. It was in the heart of a vibrant, active downtown. And it went right down the center of the street. I think that made it special and memorable and an activity for which people were willing to wait and pay.

So why not recapture that?

Obviously, it’s not possible to permanently close a street for the purpose of installing a zipline. I get that. But there are a number of other places within downtown Indianapolis that an urban zipline could be installed:

  • From the top of the Emmis Building, across the Soldiers & Sailors monument, to the area by Christ Church Cathedral or Bank One.
  • From the west side of the Soldiers & Sailors monument, along and over the sidewalk, toward the Statehouse.
  • Down the center of the new pedestrian mall on George Street.
  • From the Indiana Historical Society along the canal.
  • In or along one of the parks that make up the American Legion mall.
  • In or around the NCAA Hall of Champions or Eiteljorg Museum.
  • Military Park.

Sure, there would be obstacles to overcome. What activity doesn’t have obstacles? But think of the benefit to the City. Think of the stories that visitors will tell about their visit to Indianapolis, with the zipline ride in the heart of the City. Think of the families from central Indiana who might choose to come downtown on a weekend for that activity … and while downtown, what else might they choose to do?

Maybe I’m off base, but I think that something cool and exciting like an urban zipline could become one of those permanent fixtures that a city becomes known for as well as another thing to draw local residents to downtown and all of the other activities to be found. I can see a family coming down on a Saturday afternoon to ride the zipline … and then taking the kids to one of the museums. Or how about this? Offer a discount (or even a free ride) with a museum admission?

We saw something that people loved, that they were willing to wait in line and pay for. So why let it just fade away to a nice memory? Capitalize on its success and find a way to incorporate it into the life of the city.

The where are the how are mere details. If a permanent urban attraction is a good idea, Indianapolis has shown time and time again that where there is a will, there is a way.

So what do you think? Would a downtown zipline be cool? Would you pay a few bucks to give it a try? Do you think it would be an attraction that tourists would take note of? If a downtown zipline sounds like a good idea, let me know. More importantly, let others — and the City — know too!

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