Indianapolis: Sports History

Tour curated by: The Discover Indiana Team

Indianapolis had a history of engagement with professional and amateur sports long before hosting the 2012 Super Bowl. This tour will introduce you to some well-known stories and highlight some less well-remembered ones.

This tour is primarily designed to be a virtual introduction to Indianapolis sports history that you can enjoy from anywhere. Some of the stops on this tour are not regularly open to the public except by special arrangement and one "stop," the Market Square Arena, exists now only in memory.

But all of the locations can be visited physically if you want to do so. The physical tour begins at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and ends at the Indianapolis Zoo--site of an early Indianapolis Baseball Stadium. The tour takes you West and North of Indianapolis as well as stopping at several downtown sites. The route covers 20 miles and, without stopping, can be driven in 45 minutes. The midpoint on the tour is the Athenaeum, where the Rathskeller is open everyday for lunch from 11:00 to 2:00.

Locations for Tour

It took Ray Harroun 6 hours and 42 minutes to win the first Indianapolis 500 on May 30, 1911. Speeding past the checkered flag in his bright yellow Marmon “Wasp,” Harroun had driven the five hundred miles at an average speed of 74.6 mph.…

The open air cycling track, or velodrome, before you is named for Marshall Walter “Major” Taylor. In 1899, Taylor, a renowned cyclist and world record holder from Indianapolis, became the second African American world champion athlete. …

Nicknamed “Indiana’s Basketball Cathedral” by ESPN, the Hinkle Fieldhouse, formerly known as the Butler Fieldhouse, is one of the best known and oldest continually used college basketball arenas in the world. Listed as a National Historic…

Early History: On September 5, 1931, the AAA minor league Indianapolis Indians (founded in 1902) played their first baseball game in front of 5,942 spectators—a less than full house—at the brand-new Perry Stadium. Indians owner Norman Perry named…

On March 19, 1955, the Tigers of Crispus Attucks High School defeated the Roosevelt Panthers of Gary, Indiana, earning the capital city its first state high school boys basketball championship. On a national level, the victory marked the first time…

Following the failed revolutions of 1848, many Germans emigrated to the United States to escape turmoil. They incorporated aspects of German culture into their lives in the United States. By 1860, 20% of Indianapolis residents came from a…

Perched like a giant flying saucer resting on two parking garages, Market Square Arena was perhaps an aptly styled venue for Elvis Presley’s final public performance (June 26, 1977). Built in 1974 and host to a wide variety of sporting and…

It was on the snowy night of March 28, 1984, when the Baltimore Colts became the Indianapolis Colts. After loading everything they could remove from their Maryland training complex into twelve moving vans, the Colts made the long journey to…

The 1987 Pan American Games represented one of Indianapolis’ biggest steps “in its quest to be known as the world’s amateur sports capitol.” During the Pan Am Games, nearly 4500 amateur athletes from 38 member nations of the Pan American…

In 2010, a team of professors and students from Ball State University used digital mapping technologies to identify the exact location of Washington Ball Park. Decades of development and change, including the construction of the Indianapolis Zoo, had…