For the past 21 years, I have seen the city of Evansville grow exponentially. I have seen the dark times and the good times. I remember many hopeful sports teams that only lasted a year or two before they disappeared. Hell, I remember in 2011 when Evansville was rated the most obese city in America. Yikes! On the other hand, who could forget about the University of Evansville upsetting the then number 1 ranked Kentucky in college basketball back in 2019? This may be the biggest upset of all-time, and it made the city trend at the top of twitter for the first and probably last time. Evansville has been my home my entire life, and I now have the privilege to watch it bloom as I attend college here. Now, it seems as if the city has the green light, and we are in the middle of a huge rebuild.
Recently, I – along with other communications majors – had the privilege to interview a panel of different high-ranking individuals within the Evansville community that our Sports Writing class professor, Dr. Tamara Wandel, brought in to meet with us. The panel included Eric Marvin, the Executive Director of the Evansville Sports Corporation, Alexis Berggren, President and CEO of Visit Evansville, Andy Owen, Evansville School Corporation’s Director of Athletics and Physical Education and Health, and Steve Schaefer, Deputy Mayor of Evansville. Throughout this panel interview, we learned so much behind-the-scenes information on what all goes into building a city like Evansville and making proper high profile moves to improve it. We also learned of upcoming plans for renovation and events such as a potential MLB game played at our very own Bosse field. I was completely engaged with the panel. For the first time in my life, I felt as if I have behind the scenes perspective on the city I have lived in for my entire life.
Starting with Eric Marvin, he explained the importance of highlighting the region nationally. This makes Evansville not only an attractive spot for tourists, but also for companies and other events. A big factor in this is venues and how they are used. “The venues that we have utilized for events to date include the Ford Center, Bosse Field, Deaconess Aquatic Center, Deaconess Sports Park, Angel Mounds, Screaming Eagles Arena, Victoria National, Wesselman and Evansville Tennis Center.” These venues each have individual purposes; the proper use of them will help highlight the city nationally. The Ford Center is the big-time arena that caters concerts, collegiate basketball events, semi-professional hockey games, and other entertainment events. This is a huge draw, especially considering the increase in concerts as of late. When I was younger, if anyone even remotely popular was performing in Evansville, it was big news. It was a showstopper when the circus, monster trucks, and singers past their primes made their way through. Now, however, with the Ford Center, Evansville has catered to popular performers such as Morgan Wallen, Thomas Rhett, Koe Wetzel, and Jason Aldean. If you can’t tell, we like our country music here. Big name performers like these are vital to promoting the city. People from across the country will travel to Evansville to see these concerts and their time spent here is what will ultimately promote or not promote the city. Downtown Evansville, where the Ford Center and multiple critically acclaimed restaurants are located, is where most tourists will spend their time. Plenty of renovations have been made in this area, including newer buildings and roads, to improve the quality of the experience for tourists that come into town for concerts and other events. When good reviews come from this, it greatly promotes the city nationally, and will motivate other performers to add Evansville as a stop on their tours.
Alexis Berggren hammered home the question, “How are we representing Evansville?”. The process of increasing tourism stems from the reputation of the city. If the community represents it with pride and respects our facilities, it will in turn make others want to come and visit as well.
Overall, the biggest factor of tourism is demand. Demand was another hitting point for Berggren when she talked about focusing upgrades based on demand. This includes the likes of pickleball courts – a sport which has exploded onto the athletic scene as of late – and other athletic centers that can be used for national tournaments. Berggren also gave the inside scoop on potential upgrades: “We have marketed to professional pool tournaments, catfishing tournaments, motorized boat races, and Quidditch tournaments.” Tournaments and other activity centers like these, along with positive representation of Evansville, are what will bring people to our city and ultimately lead to even more upgrades.
As you can tell, each factor from each individual on the panel plays a huge factor in the circle of life for the city of Evansville. Each thought, idea, and plan has a case and effect that play off of one another. I for one am very thankful for the new athletic facilities that are locally available to today’s youth. Growing up, it felt as if I constantly had to travel to different cities to compete in tournaments due to Evansville’s lack of locations to host. But seeing this increase in facilities and fields greatly warms my heart for today’s youth because they get to have the things that I wish I had growing up. Clearly, the proper steps are being made for the city and for the people.
While on the topic of youth activities, Andy Owen is the perfect example of someone whose career revolves around the betterment of our school facilities and other sports complexes. This revolves around his ideology of “Access and Opportunity.” Giving more access to the local and non-local population when it comes to sporting venues will lead to new opportunities in the field of big name tournaments, new facilities, and draw toward the city. When asked about who helps the most to jumpstart these new facilities, Andy said, “Community hospitals, such as Deaconess, banks, such as Old National, and local business and families, such as Goebel, help create these opportunities.” Capitalizing on opportunity through on our local resources and properly providing access to the community is what Owen sees as our steps to success when it comes to building the city.
Steve Schaefer had a great summation to everyone’s point, and that is to build the city. He emphasized the idea of building new activity centers, as well as building credibility and economic activity. However, the biggest takeaway from Schaefer was his following statement: “We actively look for ways to improve in order to increase the amount of events hosted in Evansville.” An interesting take away from Schaefer was the idea of hosting an MLB game at the historic Bosse Field. After the MLB opened up to specialty games like the Field of Dreams, Evansville has stayed in contact with the MLB in hopes of hosting a game at Bosse Field. This would be absolutely phenomenal for the city and might be the biggest event to happen to date, especially depending on the two teams that play. There was a massive draw to the Field of Dreams game, which was in the middle of a cornfield. Imagine the draw of tourists for a city with multiple high-ranking restaurants, hotels, and other activities. I truly hope that one day this does happen because, in my opinion, that will be a milestone for the city of Evansville.
After 21 years of living in the city of Evansville, I finally feel excitement and pride for my city. Granted, we are not Indianapolis or Las Vegas, but we don’t have to be. We are Evansville. A once overlooked city is slowly becoming a powerhouse not only in tourism, but through concerts, sporting events, tournaments, and other high-profile events as well. Not only that, but I have also seen renovations in our city such as new restaurants, new stores, and new living places. It truly is amazing seeing my hometown grow before my own eyes. Having hard workers with strong visions – such as Eric Marvin, Alexis Berggren, Andy Owen, and Steve Scahefer – backing our city, the sky is the limit for Evansville, and I cannot wait to see what the future holds.