Indianapolis has come of age! Once referred to as Naptown because there was seemingly nothing to do there but sleep, the city has come alive. It pulses with a distinct urban beat. There is something going on here.
I have just returned from 48 hours in this city and it was full of surprises. One of the first was seeing the startling new buildings which have been built in the city’s new urban center. There are skyscrapers here. I stayed in one of them, the new Embassy Suites building is directly next to the classic Indiana Repertory Theatre in the center of the new city. The hotel was quite fabulous with roomy suites for everyone.
Next door, the Indiana Repertory Theatre is a producing organization which has been in business for many years. I saw “The Miracle Worker” and it was a wonderfully powerful performance, comparable to anything done in New York. I was thoroughly impressed. Imaginative staging, beautifully lit and performed it was a very powerful evening.
Dinner was well made, too. I ate a new restaurant called Black Market which was just terrific. I had lamb marsala and it was imaginatively prepared and beautifully presented.
I ate with some friends from Indianapolis, Donna Clark, a violist with the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, her husband, Randy Russell a teacher at Indianapolis’ Butler University and Morgan Greenlee, from the Convention and Visitor’s Association. The restaurant is very modern and attractive.
“In the last 5 years dining in Indianapolis has changed. Before that it was all sports bars and steak houses. Now we have a new culinary sophistication,” says Morgan Greenlee. She’s right. I had dinner at two very good restaurants, Black Market and Lorenzo’s which is downtown in the city center, a fine Italian restaurant. Other new restaurants are The Libertine, Late Harvest Kitchen, Oakley’s, R Bistro, Goose the Market and Recess. These new spots have opened within the last few years giving a diversity and excellence to the Indianapolis dining scene.
The downtown is lit up. There are new buildings, hotels and stadiums. The Indianapolis Colt’s Lucas Oil Stadium, is right in the city center, with a roof which opens to the sky. The world’s largest J. W. Mariott is in Indianapolis as well, along with a new Westin and a Conrad.
So what accounts for all the changes in Indianapolis? Several years ago a group of business men formed a committee to make Indianapolis the amateur sports capital of the world. They brought the NCAA headquarters to Indianapolis, saw to it that the Colts were purchased from Baltimore and moved to Indianapolis. The Indiana Pacers have been in Indianapolis for many years. There’s also the USA Track and Field Association, USA Gymnastics Association and the Big 10 Basketball Championship Association is in Indianapolis.
They created several 6 Cultural Districts in Indianapolis: The Circle Mall, in the center of the City, the Wholesale District where all the hotels and entertainment is, Indiana Avenue, an African American center, Broad Ripple which contains lots of nightlife, Massachusetts Avenue which is a lively artistic hub and Fountain Square, which has several ethnic restaurants.
I also visited the vast, new Indianapolis Museum of Art which is in a stunning new building and has lots of softly lit new galleries with remarkable new exhibits.
On Saturday in the early evening I was in the Hilbert Circle Theatre for a concert of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. They played the Grieg Piano Concerto with the sublime Andre’ Watts at the Piano. Andre’Watts, playing Grieg is to be present within earshot of a master. He is elegant at the Steinway. He plays with a kind of dexterity and force and the orchestra was sublime. Yes, Indianapolis has definitely come into its own.
There’s no question that Indianapolis feels a new city, a place where the talented no longer need to flee, but can stay and grow along with the city itself. As Donna Clark said, “I can’t believe it’s the same town.” I grew up there and fled when I was at the end of high school and couldn’t imagine ever feeling that it would be satisfactory to live there, now I could be quite happy contemplating a move back.