Basketball 'court' at Indianapolis airport to promote NBA All-Star Game is turning heads

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Passengers at Indianapolis International Airport are getting to experience a slice of next month's NBA All-Star Game — with no extra fee.

For the past week, travelers through the main terminal have been treated to a full-sized replica basketball court that features two baskets, boundary lines and the All-Star logo. Many are already taking advantage of the opportunity.

Although fans can't shoot free throws or jump shots on the concourse, the scene has been a show-stopper. Airport officials say they'll be adding more features as the city’s first All-Star Game since 1985 nears on Feb. 18.

“It's quite innovative,” said Kevin Hammill, a resident of the San Francisco Bay area who said he had never seen anything quite like it in an airport facility. “It caught my eye when I was coming down from Chicago. I thought it's really a good promotion."

Indianapolis airport officials typically dress up the facility when major sporting events such as the Super Bowl, the Final Four or the CFP championship game have come to town. IndyCars are also regularly featured attractions, a tip of the cap to the Indianapolis 500 and the state's racing roots.

But this attraction, which will remain at the airport leading up to the All-Star Game, may be the most creative — and perhaps the most fitting to airline passengers all too familiar with delays. The game was initially scheduled to be played in Indy in 2021 but was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since then, organizers have been debating the best ways to promote the game. The hoops capture the essence of one of Indiana's most beloved traditions — basketball.

Those strolling through Civic Plaza can't miss the 50-foot wide, 94-foot long pressure sensitive vinyl, non-slip floor.

It took 10 hours to print the decal court and three nights to install it earlier this week on top of the airport's primary floor. Many gawk or snap photos. While basketballs aren't provided and shooting is prohibited, some can't help but pretend to line up shots. The concept has taken off.

"I think it's fascinating,” said Stefan Simeunovic, a Purdue tennis player who grew up in Canada and was surprised by the airport's new feature attraction. “I'm a big NBA fan, so it's pretty cool.”

Pretty realistic, too. Right down to the shot clock above one basket and the large window that will remind some people of the windows at Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the NFL's Indianapolis Colts, and All-Star weekend's Saturday night festivities or Butler University's historic Hinkle Fieldhouse.

Just a few steps away from the replica court is the Indiana Pacers Courtside Club, which bills itself as a family-friendly sports bar.

No banners hang from the rafters and there are no tributes to some of Indiana's most famous basketball names — Bob Knight, Oscar Robertson, Larry Bird, Reggie Miller and Tamika Catchings — but they could be coming.

Because it's located where the general public is allowed, anyone can stop by to order food or drinks, walk onto the replica court or pull up a chair and eat at the baseline like some of basketball's biggest celebrities.

“It all fits,” Hammill said.