Over the last seven months, I have witnessed the community dialogue around Zionsville’s selection as the new home of the Little League Central Region Headquarters as one of great pride and exuberance overtaken by a narrative filled with vitriol and character assassination that is unnecessary and unwarranted. While I know there is a price to pay for doing anything in a public spotlight, it is important for me to disarm the level of discord by bringing a broader perspective to what has led us to this predicament.
I am a member of the Zionsville Local Organizing Committee and was the first person on Nov. 10, 2017 to receive the call from ZLOC’s president after he had been informed that Zionsville was selected. I was also the first person to join the committee when my husband returned from a District 8 Little League Presidents Meeting in spring 2016 informing me that there might be a great project to which we could contribute our time and talent to benefit Zionsville. I have been at the front line from the beginning but not for the reasons some might think.
While I could talk endlessly about what the Zionsville Little League has meant to my family in terms of the impact on my two sons, the friendships I have made and the lifelong memories of witnessing children achieve more than they knew they were capable of — that is only one aspect of why I joined ZLOC. I joined because I brought a professional background and context to the table having come to Indianapolis 18 years ago as part of the NCAA’s relocation from Kansas City. And context is what is so greatly needed in the current discussion around the LLCRHQ situation.
More than twenty years ago, the NCAA embarked on a competitive selection process for the location of its national headquarters. Indianapolis beat out the other finalist, Kansas City, because of its financial package, the fit with Indianapolis’ amateur sports presence and the opportunity the city and the surrounding areas could bring to NCAA employees, visitors and fans. As part of the deal, the city and state offered $50 million in incentives and the necessary land at the price tag of $1 annual rent. In turn, the NCAA relocated 200+ employees and committed to bringing a major event (Men’s Final Four, Women’s Final Four, NCAA Convention, NCAA Championships) to Indianapolis once every five years. The economics of the deal were obvious.
Every aspect of the downtown presence changed because of the NCAA’s relocation — some lifelong residents likely considered it an inconvenience due to increased traffic, changes in infrastructure, a loss of green space and the negatives that come with change. Most saw it as inconvenient change on the journey to a something bigger — growth of downtown business, relocation of other companies and events, infrastructure improvements, tourism, national exposure. Some results are tangible and quantifiable; others are not. Would Indianapolis have landed a Super Bowl if it had not invested a decade earlier? We will never know. But we will remember the excitement and pride that came with being a Super Bowl city.
While the scale and profile of the NCAA deal are far beyond that of the Zionsville-Little League Central region selection, the principles are the same. The bid that came together needed to be competitive for Zionsville to beat Plainfield, Westfield and the two Chicago communities. The bid needed to demonstrate all that is great about what Zionsville is and could be. It needed to fit with the community’s values. It would necessitate public and private partnerships. It would necessitate being responsible stewards of Zionsville resources and the community as a whole. It would necessitate all that comes with construction and infrastructure changes (many of which were already in motion). It would necessitate an openness to host visitors from outside Zionsville. It would necessitate change on the journey to something bigger. Some results will be quantifiable, others will not.
Many will portray this process and the people involved as secretive and sinister because that is what they deemed necessary for all of this to go away. And while the opposition states that it is only against one aspect of making the LLCRHQ a reality, the celebratory nature of Little League being a casualty indicates otherwise. And that is where I would like to bring this full circle.
The process began with an opportunity to bring something to Zionsville that could be a tremendous benefit to our youth, to our economy, to our national presence and to our profile without having to compromise the vision of the community. In fact, it could be a turbo-charge to that vision. But in the pursuit of an opportunity such as this, public, private and community partnerships are necessary. This is not unusual or unprecedented and certainly not underhanded. It is a normal course of business.
What is Zionsville’s equivalent of the Super Bowl that could be out there that starts with landing the Little League Central Region Headquarters? I am confident that most citizens don’t want our answer to be, “we will never know.”
Lend your support and go to the petition here: Here’s the link:
JoJo Reinbold, Zionsville