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About Indianapolis

Indianapolis is the capital city of the U.S. state of Indiana, and the county seat of Marion County, Indiana. Also called "Indy", "Naptown", and "The Circle City", the 2000 Census counted the city's population at 791,926. It is Indiana's most populous city and is the 13th largest city in the U.S., the third largest city in the Midwest, and the second most populous State Capital in the U.S., behind Phoenix, Arizona

Destination Guides > North America > USA > Great Lakes > Indiana > Indianapolis

Skyline of City of Indianapolis

Indianapolis has shed its image as a Manufacturing, or Rust Belt city, due in part to an aggressive downtown revitalization campaign. The diversification of the city's economic base since the 1960s has also contributed to this transformation. A large part of this diversification involves the hosting of events, especially sporting events. The labels of The Amateur Sports Capital of the World, and The Racing Capital of the World, have both been applied to Indianapolis. The city has hosted the 1987 Pan American Games, the NCAA Basketball Tournament, the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard, the United States Grand Prix (last race June 2007), and is perhaps most famous for the annual Indianapolis 500 race. The attendance at both the Indianapolis 500 and the Allstate 400 makes them the largest single day sporting events in the world, with well over 250,000 fans in attendance at each. Indianapolis also has the second most monuments inside city limits, behind only Washington D.C..

The Indianapolis Metropolitan Area is among the fastest growing in the Midwest, with growth centered in the surrounding counties of Hamilton, Hendricks, and Johnson Counties.



For more details on this topic, see History of Indianapolis.

Indianapolis was founded as the state capital in 1821. Jeremiah Sullivan, a judge of the Indiana Supreme Court, invented the name Indianapolis by joining Indiana with polis, the Greek word for city; literally, Indianapolis means "Indiana City". The city was founded on the White River under the incorrect assumption that the river would serve as a major transportation artery; however, the waterway was too sandy for trade. The state commissioned Alexander Ralston to design the new capital city. Ralston was an apprentice to the French architect Pierre L'Enfant, and he helped L'Enfant plan Washington, DC. Ralston's original plan for Indianapolis called for a city of only one square mile, and, at the center of the city, sat the Governor's Circle, a large circular commons, which was to be the site of the Governor's mansion. Meridian and Market Streets converge at the Circle and continue north and south and east and west, respectively. The Governor's mansion was finally demolished in 1857 and in its place stands a 284-foot-tall (86.5-meter-tall) neoclassical limestone and bronze monument, the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument. This is now known as Monument Circle.

The city lies on the original east-west National Road. The first railroad to service Indianapolis, the Madison & Indianapolis, began operation on October 1, 1847, and subsequent railroad connections made expansive growth possible. By the turn of the century, Indianapolis had become a heavy automobile manufacturer, rivaling the likes of Detroit. With roads leading out of the city at all directions, Indianapolis was on its way to becoming a major hub of regional transport connecting to Chicago, Louisville, Cincinnati, Columbus and St. Louis, as is befitting the capital of a state whose motto is "The Crossroads of America." This same network of roads would allow quick and easy access to suburban areas in future years. Natural gas and oil deposits in the surrounding area in the late 19th century helped the economy of Indianapolis prosper. City population grew rapidly throughout the first half of the 20th century. During this period, rapid suburbanization began to take place, and racial relations deteriorated throughout the 1960s, although, on the night that the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, Indianapolis was the only major city in which rioting did not occur. Many credit a speech by Robert F. Kennedy, who was in town campaigning for President that night, for helping to calm the tensions. Tragically, his life was cut short a few months later in California. Racial tensions heightened in 1970 with the passage of Unigov, which further isolated the middle class from Indianapolis's growing African American community. Court-ordered school desegregation busing by Judge S. Hugh Dillon was also a controversial change.

In the 1970s and 1980s Indianapolis suffered at the hands of urban decay and white flight. Major revitalization of the city's blighted areas, such as Fall Creek Place, and especially the downtown, occurred in the 1990s and led to an acceleration of growth in and around the Indianapolis Metropolitan Area. The city's relative flat terrain allows for easy access to areas in and around the city.

The opening of Circle Centre Mall in downtown Indianapolis signaled a revitalization continued. Currently, the city is experiencing growth in the hospitality industry with the new Convention Center addition and the construction of Lucas Oil Stadium. A new high-rise hotel will be built to add more hotel rooms. This adds to the growing list of downtown accommodations and restaurants. Indianapolis International Airport is currently building a new midfield airport terminal, scheduled to open in 2008.


Geography and climate

According to the United States Census Bureau, "the balance" (that part of Marion County not part of another municipality) has a total area of 368.2 square miles (953.5 km²)—361.5 square miles (936.2 km²) of it is land and 6.7 square miles (17.3 km²) of it is water. The total area is 1.81% water. These figures are slightly misleading because they do not represent the entire Consolidated City of Indianapolis (all of Marion County, except the four excluded communities). The total area of the Consolidated City of Indianapolis, which does not count the four excluded communities, covers approximately 373.1 square miles (966.3 km²).

At the center of Indianapolis is the One-Mile Square, bounded by four appropriately-named streets: East, West, North, and South Streets. Nearly all of the streets in the One-Mile Square are named after U.S. states. (The exceptions are Meridian Street, which numerically divides west from east; Market Street, which intersects Meridian Street at Monument Circle; Capitol and Senate Avenues, where many of the Indiana state government buildings are located; and Washington Street, which was named after President George Washington. The street-numbering system centers not on the Circle, but rather one block to the south, where Meridian Street intersects Washington Street — National Road.)

Indianapolis is situated in the Central Till Plains region of the United States. Two natural waterways dissect the city: the White River, and Fall Creek.

Physically, Indianapolis is similar to many other Midwestern cities. A mix of deciduous forests and prairie covered much of what is considered Indianapolis prior to the 19th century. Land within the city limits varies from flat to gently sloping; most of the changes in elevation are so gradual that they go unnoticed, and appear to be flat from close distances. The mean elevation for Indianapolis is 717 feet. The highest point in Indianapolis lies at Crown Hill Cemetery atop Strawberry Hill (the tomb of famed Hoosier writer James Whitcomb Riley) with an elevation of 842 feet, and the lowest point in Indianapolis lies at the Marion County/Johnson County line, with an elevation of about 680 feet. The highest hill in Indianapolis is Mann Hill, a bluff located along the White River in Southwestway Park that rises about 150 feet above the surrounding land. Variations in elevation from 700-900 feet occur throughout the city limits. There are a few moderately-sized bluffs and valleys in the city, particularly along the shores of the White River, Fall Creek, Geist Reservoir, and Eagle Creek Reservoir, and especially on the city's Northeast and Northwest sides.

Indianapolis has a humid continental climate (Koppen climate classification Dfa). Like most cities in the Midwest, it has four distinct seasons. Summers are hot and humid, with average high temperatures approaching 90°F (32°C), with days approaching or exceeding 100°F (38°C) not unheard of. Spring and autumn are usually pleasant, with temperatures reaching around 65°F (18°C). Spring, however, is much less predictable than autumn; midday temperature drops exceeding 30°F (17°C) are common during March and April, and instances of very warm days (86°F; 30°C) followed within 36 hours by snowfall are not unheard of during these months. Winters are cool to cold, with daily highs barely inching above freezing. Temperatures occasionally fall below 0°F (-18°C). The rainiest months are in the spring and summer, with average rainfalls of over four inches per month, but these averages fluctuate only slightly throughout the year.

The city's average annual precipitation is 41 inches (1,040 mm).

The average July high is 85.6°F (29.8°C), with the low being 65.2°F (18.4°C). January highs average 34.5°F (1.4°C), and lows 18.5°F (-7.5°C). The record high for Indianapolis is 107°F (42°C), on July 25th, 1954. The record low is -27°F (-33°C), on January 19th, 1994. Snowfall varies from about 20 to 30 inches (500–760 mm) a year.


The 2006 Census estimate for Indianapolis, Balance (an unofficial area which is only a portion of the Consolidated City of Indianapolis) is 785,597. (The population of the full Consolidated City of Indianapolis contains approximately another 9,974 people--derived by adding the 2006 Census estimates for areas left out of Indianapolis, Balance and using 2000 Census data for portion of Cumberland, Indiana included in Consolidated City of Indianapolis).

Greater Indianapolis is a rapidly growing region located at the center of Indiana and consists of Marion County and several adjacent counties. The Combined Statistical Area (CSA) of Indianapolis will likely exceed 2 million people in the 2007 estimate, ranking 23rd in the United States and 7th in the midwest. As a unified labor and media market, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) had a 2006 population of 1.66 million people, ranking 33rd in the United States. Indianapolis is the 7th largest MSA in the Midwest and has three very rapidly growing counties just outside city limits: Hendricks County, Hamilton County, and Johnson County.

As of the censusGR2 of 2000, there were 791,926 people, 320,107 households, and 192,704 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,163.0 people per square mile (835.1/km²). There were 352,429 housing units at an average density of 975.0 per square mile (376.4/km²). The racial makeup of the balance was 69.1% white, 25.50% black or African American, 0.25% Native American, 1.43% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 2.04% from other races, and 1.64% from two or more races. 3.92% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

From 2000 to 2004, the Hispanic population in Indianapolis increased by 43%.[3] The majority of the non-white population lives in the central and north portions of the inner-city area. Indianapolis has over 6000 immigrants from the former Yugoslavia[citation needed].

The median income for a household in the balance is $41,964, and the median income for a family is $48,755. Males have a median income of $36,302 versus $27,738 for females. The per capita income is $21,640.[4] 14.8% of the population lives below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 16.2% of those under the age of 18 and 8.1% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.

There are 320,107 households out of which 29.8% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.6% are married couples living together, 15.1% have a female householder with no husband present, and 39.8% are non-families. 32.0% of all households are made up of individuals and 8.5% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.39 and the average family size is 3.04.

The age distribution is: 25.7% under the age of 18, 10.2% from 18 to 24, 32.9% from 25 to 44, 20.3% from 45 to 64, and 11.0% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 34 years. For every 100 females there are 93.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 90.2 males.


Higher education

Indianapolis is the home of the following colleges and universities (in alphabetical order): Butler University, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana, Marian College, Martin University, Oakland City University Indianapolis, and the University of Indianapolis(UIndy).

Butler University was originally founded in 1855 as North Western Christian University. The school purchased land in the Irvington area in 1875. The school moved again in 1928 to its current location in at the edge of Butler-Tarkington. The school removed itself officially from religious affiliation, giving up the theological school to Christian Theological Seminary. A private institution, Butler's current student enrollment is approximately 4,400.

IUPUI was originally an urban conglomeration of branch campuses of the two major state universities, Indiana University in Bloomington and Purdue University in West Lafayette, created by the state legislature. In 1969 a merged campus was created at the site of the Indiana University School of Medicine. IUPUI's student body is currently just under 30,000, making it the third-largest institute of higher learning in Indiana.

Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana, a state funded public school, was founded as Indiana Vocational Technical College in 1963. With 23 campuses across Indiana, Ivy Tech has a total enrollment of just over 70,300, with just over 12,000 attending campuses in the Indianapolis area.

Marian College was founded in 1936 when St. Francis Normal and Immaculate Conception Junior College merged. The college moved to Indianapolis in 1937. Marian is currently a private Catholic school and has an enrollment of approximately 1,800 students.

University of Indianapolis is a private school affiliated with the United Methodist Church. Founded in 1902 as Indiana Central University, the school currently hosts almost 4,300 students.




Public library services are provided to the citizens of Indianapolis and Marion County by the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library (IMCPL). The educational and cultural institution, founded in 1873, now consists of a main library, Central Library, located in downtown Indianapolis and 22 branch locations spread throughout the city. Serving over 5.43 million visitors in 2006, IMCPL's mission is to provide "materials and programs in support of the lifelong learning, recreational and economic interests of all citizens of Marion County."


War Memorial Plaza

A five-block plaza at the intersection of Meridian and Vermont surrounding a large memorial dedicated to Hoosiers who have fought in American wars. It was originally constructed to honor the Indiana soldiers who died in World War I, but construction was halted due to lack of funding during the Great Depression, and it was finished in 1951. The purpose of the memorial was altered to encompass all American wars in which Hoosiers fought.

The monument is modeled after the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus. At 210 feet (64 m) tall it is approximately seventy-five feet taller than the original Mausoleum which was demolished to build a fort during the Crusades. The blue lights, which shine between columns on the side of the War Memorial, make the monument easy to spot. On the north end of the War Memorial Plaza is the national headquarters of the American Legion and the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library's Central Library.

The War Memorial

The War Memorial


Beginning in 1999 the city became host to the annual Indy Jazz Festival. The festival is a three day event held in Military Park near the canal. Past stars have included B.B. King, Aretha Franklin, Bruce Hornsby, Bela Fleck & The Flecktones, Kool and the Gang, Ray Charles, The Temptations, Dave Brubeck, Emmylou Harris, Chris Isaak, Jonny Lang, Norah Jones and regional and local favorites.

Every May Indianapolis holds the 500 Festival, a month of events culminating in the Indianapolis 500 Festival Parade the day before the running of the Indianapolis 500. The Festival was begun in 1957 and the first Queen of the Festival was Ann Lawrie who was named in 1959.

The Circle City Classic is one of America’s top historically African-American college football tournaments. The football game is the showcase event of an entire weekend. The weekend is a celebration of cultural excellence and educational achievement while showcasing the spirit, energy and tradition of America’s historically black colleges and universities.

In 2003, Indianapolis began hosting Gen Con, the largest role-playing game convention in the nation (record attendance thus far being numbered in excess of 30,000), at the Indiana Convention Center. Future expansion of the convention space is expected by many to further increase attendance numbers in coming years. The convention center has also recently played host to such events as Star Wars Celebration II and III, which brought in Star Wars fans from around the world, including George Lucas. From October 25 to 28, 2006, the convention center was home to the 79th national Future Farmers of America convention, bringing around 50,000 visitors in from around the country. It will also host it every year up to 2012.[8]

Indianapolis is also home to the Indiana State Fair, as well as the Heartland Film Festival, The Indianapolis International Film Festival, the Indianapolis Theatre Fringe Festival, the Indianapolis Alternative Media Festival, the Midwest Music Summit and the Indianapolis LGBT Film Festival.

The Indy International Wine Competition which is the largest U.S. wine competition outside of California is held in Indianapolis every July at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.

The city has a vibrant arts community that includes many fairs celebrating a wide variety of arts and crafts during the summer months. They include the Broad Ripple Art Fair,Talbot Street Art Fair, Carmel Arts Festival and the Penrod Art Fair


Ethnic and cultural heritage festivals

Perhaps the largest of Indianapolis' ethnic and cultural heritage festivals is the Summer Celebration held by Indiana Black Expo. This ten-day national event highlights the contributions of African Americans to U.S. society and culture and provides educational, entertainment, and networking opportunities to the over 300,000 participants from around the country.

Indy's International Festival is held annually in November at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Local ethnic groups, vendors and performers are featured alongside national and international performers.

Other local festivals include:


Indianapolis is home to the Super Bowl XLI Champion Indianapolis Colts of the NFL, the Indiana Pacers of the NBA, the Indiana Fever of the WNBA, the Indianapolis Indians of the IL, and the Indiana Ice of the USHL.

In addition, the headquarters of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the main governing body for U.S. collegiate sports, is in Indianapolis, as is the National Federation of State High School Associations.

The city has hosted the Men's and Women's NCAA Final Fours (the semifinals and final of the NCAA basketball tournament) several times, and as of 2006 the NCAA is holding the Women's Final Four in Indianapolis at least once every five years. Also, Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, will host the Big Ten Tournament for 5 straight years starting in 2008 after it won the Big Ten bid over Chicago and the United Center

Indianapolis also hosts the RCA Indy Tennis Championhips, one of the many tournaments which are part of the US Open series.

Indianapolis is well known for its ability to host large events. IMS hosts 2 major races every year, the Indianapolis 500 and the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard. Starting in 2008, the MotoGP Motorcycle series will host a weekend at the speedway. As previously mentioned Indy plays hosts to many Men's and Women's Final Fours and will continue with the opening of Lucas Oil Stadium. Lucas Oil Stadium and the city of Indianapolis also made a bid to host Super Bowl XLV in 2011 but lost to Dallas and the Dallas Cowboys New Stadium by only 2 NFL Owner votes. Indianapolis also hosted the Pan American Games in 1987.

Indianapolis ColtsFootballNational Football League (AFC)RCA Dome

Lucas Oil Stadium (starting 2008)

Indiana PacersBasketballNational Basketball AssociationConseco Fieldhouse
Indiana FeverBasketballWomen's National Basketball AssociationConseco Fieldhouse
Indianapolis IndiansBaseballInternational League (AAA - affiliated with the Pittsburgh Pirates)Victory Field
Indiana IceHockeyUnited States Hockey LeaguePepsi Coliseum

Conseco Fieldhouse


Indianapolis Colts

Lucas Oil Stadium under construction
Lucas Oil Stadium under construction
For more details on this topic, see Indianapolis Colts.

The Indianapolis Colts moved to Indianapolis in 1984. During the early years the Colts struggled to win many games. After a playoff berth in 1987, the Colts drifted back to mediocrity and worse until the mid '90s. In 1995 the Colts made their 1st step towards success when they made AFC Championship Game but lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers on a last second play. Then in 1998 GM Bill Polian drafted Peyton Manning out of Tennessee turning the Colts around. Since drafting Manning the Colts have made the playoffs in 7 of 9 years and recently won Super Bowl XLI against the Chicago Bears, 29-17. Lucas Oil Stadium will open before the 2008 season, replacing the RCA Dome, as the new home of the Colts.


Indiana Pacers

For more details on this topic, see Indiana Pacers.

The Indiana Pacers began play in the ABA in 1967 and winning 3 ABA Championships. Then in 1976 the Pacers received an invitation to join the NBA. In 1987 they drafted Reggie Miller out of UCLA and became an instant playoff perennial. In 2000 they reached their first and only NBA Finals but lost to the Lakers in 6 games. After the 2004-2005 season Reggie retired and the team has struggled mightily on and off the court.

Conseco Fieldhouse, home of the Pacers & Fever

Conseco Fieldhouse, home of the Pacers & Fever

Indiana Fever

For more details on this topic, see Indiana Fever.

The WNBA expanded to 4 new cities in 2000 including Indianapolis. The Indiana Fever was one of the 2000 expansion teams. The WNBA awarded Indianapolis a team with the opening of Conseco Fieldhouse. The Fever won their 1st game in Miami, against the Miami Sol, on national TV but finished the 2000 season in last place thus receiving a high draft pick. In the 2001 WNBA Draft the Fever drafted Tennessee superstar Tamika Catchings with the 3rd pick, although she was forced to sit out the 2001 season with a knee injury. Catchings won the 2002 WNBA Rookie of the Year and each season has led the Fever in points, rebounds, assists, and steals.


The Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
For more details on this topic, see Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS), located in Speedway, Indiana, is the site of the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race (also known as the Indy 500), an open-wheel automobile race held each Memorial Day weekend on a 2.5 mile (4 km) oval track. The Indy 500 is the largest single-day sporting event in the world, hosting more than 257,000 permanent seats (not including the infield area).

The track is often referred to as the Brickyard, as it was paved with 3.2 million bricks shortly after its initial construction in 1909. Today the track is paved in asphalt although a section of bricks remains at the start/finish line.

The first 500-Mile Race (804.67 km), held in 1911, was won by driver Ray Harroun driving a Marmon Wasp. (Marmon, incidentally, was an Indianapolis manufacturer.) The "500" is currently part of the Indy Racing League series.

IMS also hosts the NASCAR Allstate 400 at the Brickyard (originally the "Brickyard 400"). The first running of the Brickyard 400 was in 1994, and is currently NASCAR's highest attended event. Driver Jeff Gordon was the first to cross the finish line in the inaugural race.

In 1998 IMS began expanding the original track, to include a Formula One road course, utilizing the traditional brick start-finish line and adding new track in the "infield."

From 2000 to 2007, IMS hosted the Formula One United States Grand Prix. Driver Michael Schumacher took the first finish. The last US Grand Prix run at IMS, in 2007, was notable for firsts. Lewis Hamilton took the checkered flag, and in doing so became the first black driver, and the first rookie, to win at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The Speedway is scheduled to host its first MotoGP event in September of 2008.

Other series host races at nearby O'Reilly Raceway Park; it is also the site of the annual US Nationals, the most prestigious drag-racing meet of the year for the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) .



Indianapolis has an extensive municipal park system with nearly 200 parks occupying over 10,000 acres (40 km²). The flagship Eagle Creek Park is the largest municipal park in the city, and ranks among the largest urban parks in the United States.[6]

Other major Indianapolis Regional parks include:

  • Garfield Park (established in 1881, according to the Indygov website, the oldest Park in Indianapolis. Located on the Near South Side)
  • Riverside Park (Near West Side)
  • Sahm Park (Northeast side)
  • Southeastway Park (Franklin Township, Marion County)
  • Southwestway Park (Decatur Township, Marion County)

Additionally, Indianapolis has an urban forestry program that has garnered several Tree City USA awards from the National Arbor Day Foundation.


Indianapolis Zoo

For more details on this topic, see Indianapolis Zoo.

Opened in 1988 the Indianapolis Zoo is the largest zoo in the state and is just west of Downtown. It has 360 species of animals and is best known for its Dolphin exhibit which includes the only underwater viewing dome in the Midwest.


OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon

For more details on this topic, see OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon.

Indianapolis is home to the largest mini-marathon (and eighth largest running event) in America. This year (2007) is the 30th anniversary of the Mini and it is run the 1st weekend in May every year and includes one lap around the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This event is part of the 500 Festival, now its 50th year running. The race starts on Washington Street just off Monument Circle and ends on New York Street back downtown. The Mini has been sold out every year, with well over 35,000 participating. The 2006 Men's winner was Kenyan Ben Kimondiu, the 11th straight year a Kenyan has won the race. On the women's side, an American won for the first time in 13 years. She was Hoosier Native Lucie Mays-Sulewski. 2007 Race results: Joseph Chirlee (Men's Winner), marking the 12 straight year a Kenyan has won the Men's division of the Mini, & Janet Kogo Cherobon (Women's Winner).



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