INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- The Indiana high school All-Star basketball games against Kentucky drew just over 5,000 people to Conseco Fieldhouse last week, the smallest crowd in at least a decade and a major concern for the sponsoring Indianapolis Star.
Pete Smith, the coach at Guerin Catholic High School in Noblesville, is stepping down after one year as the game director and said his successor will face challenges to rebuild the event to its former prestige.
"There are a lot of issues that need to be worked out, and whoever will take over as new director will have his work cut out for him," Smith said.
Smith plans to meet with the members of the newspaper's marketing department to discuss ways to improve the event's schedule and boost attendance. His successor as game director is expected to be named later this summer.
One of the biggest issues is attendance. This year's game at Conseco Fieldhouse drew only 5,097, but flooding in southern Indiana may have kept many fans away, said Anne Fitz, the marketing manager for the Star.
Smith said moving the game from a Saturday to a Friday night also likely limited the crowd, which as recently as 2000 drew almost 13,000 fans in Indianapolis.
The games in Kentucky have seen smaller declines in attendance and the last three years have been the most profitable in the event's history, said Dave Satterly, Kentucky's game director. It's still the biggest fundraiser for the Kentucky Lions Eye Foundation, and this year's game in Louisville had more than 50 media requests for credentials.
He attributed the crowd of 3,000 at Sunday's games to other events happening on Father's Day and many leisure activities vying for free time.
"In the '60s, this was the game, and everybody, that's what you did," Satterly said. "With today's lifestyle, there are so many choices now to compete with today's dollars and gas prices and just other events."
Information from: The Indianapolis Star, http://www.indystar.com