The Indiana University School of Health & Human Sciences at IUPUI hosted an all-star lineup of Indianapolis’ top leaders in the local sports and tourism industry during Wednesday’s “NEXTGEN Indy: Building Indy’s Brand Around Sports and Entertainment.”
The event, moderated by Indianapolis Deputy Mayor Judith Thomas, brought together over 200 attendees to Hine Hall Auditorium to hear panelists such as Patrick Talty, president of Indiana Sports Corp; Leonard Hoops, president and CEO of Visit Indy; Taylor Schaffer, president and CEO of Downtown Indy Inc.; and Patrick Tamm, president and CEO of the Indiana Restaurant & Lodging Association.
The panelists’ discussion focused on insights from a new report produced by the IUPUI Sports Innovation Institute, a collaboration between multiple schools and units at IUPUI that leverages faculty and student expertise to find innovative solutions to challenges in the sports and tourism industry.
“This event couldn’t have happened without the relationships between our school and the Indianapolis tourism industry,” said David Pierce, director of the Sports Innovation Institute and professor of sport management in the Department of Tourism, Event and Sport Management at the School of Health & Human Sciences. “The next 10 years of Indy — new hotels, stadiums, etc. — is largely driven by the city’s tourism industry and, in many ways, the city’s strategy of sports and tourism depends on the work we do in our department. There are so many people who genuinely care about the tourism industry in Indianapolis, and we’re proud of our role as a thought leader in the space.”
Based upon a survey of over 500 Indiana residents age 18 to 26, the NEXTGEN Indy report put a spotlight on Gen Z with the goal of making Indianapolis a more appealing destination to a new generation of visitors and residents. Among the findings, the institute’s report found that the Circle City gets strong ratings for “great museums, must-see sports venues, walkability and iconic attractions.”
The report also showed that Gen Z rates Indianapolis better than the average among peer cities such as Columbus, Ohio, Louisville, Kentucky, and Nashville, Tennessee. And it revealed that Gen Zers have great enthusiasm for proposed attractions such as a riverwalk experience along the White River; “urban adventure experiences,” such as ziplining and climbing structures; and a themed amusement park.
According to Pierce, these insights are useful because of the limited time and capital to invest in tourism infrastructure. He said it’s important to back up action with facts and data rather than chase ideas that aren’t necessarily going to excite the next generation.
The event was organized in partnership with the Tourism, Event and Sport Management Industry Advisory Council of the School of Health & Human Sciences. The group, which is composed of over 20 representatives of Indianapolis’ business, sports and tourism community, includes representatives from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway; Indianapolis Colts; Indiana Sports Corp; Pacers Sports & Entertainment; Indiana Restaurant & Lodging Association; Visit Indy; and Amazon. The group’s membership shows the close relationship between his department and the city, Pierce said.
These relationships also offer educational opportunities to students. For NEXTGEN Indy, the lead analyst on the report was Kshaunish Kapoor, a master’s degree student in applied data science with a specialization in sports analytics – an innovative degree program offered in partnership between the School of Health & Human Sciences and the IU Luddy School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering at IUPUI.
A graduate of NMIMS and Mumbai University who played college- and state-level professional basketball in India, Kapoor came to IUPUI in 2022 to study sports analytics after learning that the campus was one of a short list in the United States to offer a degree that combined his interest in business analytics and professional sports.
“Draft analytics, cap analytics, betting analytics, fan experience, business intelligence, performance and coaching, sales data — every industry is driven by data, and analytics is a super-fast growing area of the sports industry,” Kapoor said.
In addition to the survey analysis, Kapoor is working with two major Indianapolis sports and tourism organizations this semester: the Indianapolis Indians and the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.
At Victory Field, Kapoor is working with the Indians’ business intelligence manager to create a computational model that predicts attendance at future games based upon factors such as past attendance, weather forecasts and time of day. At the Children’s Museum, he is playing a key role in the migration of the museum’s database system, which stores information such as member contact details, visitor numbers and demographics, and other details related to the operation of the country’s largest children’s museum. He has also previously served as a volunteer manager with the IUPUI men’s basketball team, assisting with filming and analyzing team performance.
At the NEXTGEN Indy event, Kapoor presented the results of the survey alongside Pierce. The result provided the audience a unique opportunity to hear about Gen Z from a member of the demographic uniquely qualified to deliver the analysis.
“Presenting is an important part of the data analyst’s job,” said Kapoor, who called the event another important career training opportunity. “You need to make sure that the people who make decisions understand your data and can use it. I want to tell stories with data that everyone can understand.”