Anderson/Madison County Visitors Blog
I have been at the Visitors Bureau just under three years. I have loved the job. But, as of May 11 I will be off on a new adventure as VP/Chief Foundation Officer of Community Hospital Anderson. In the May newsletter I will use the blog to say goodbye. This month I am going to touch on the Mounds Lake proposal while I still have the forum to do so.
I learned about the proposed Mounds Lake—then known as Project Oasis—shortly after I began at the Visitors Bureau. Rob Sparks, the executive director of the Madison County CED, explained the concept to me during lunch. I was definitely intrigued by the idea, but also found it a little overwhelming. It was such a bold and dramatic idea and that may have been what initially excited me the most. But, like most of you, after the initial shock wore off I started to really think about the project and whether or not it would be a good thing for our community.
I’ve given a lot of thought the past few years about what I call “modern day ghost towns.” I don’t mean ghost towns in the classic sense—a town that has been completely deserted and is for all practical purposes dead—I mean towns that were built for a certain population, and then because of certain factors—usually the loss of a major industry—no longer need to be as big and spread out as they are.
Detroit is a prime example of this. Between 2000 and 2010, its population fell by 25 percent. As a result, there was an excess of residential and business inventory. It was still a large city with a big population, great amenities, and a major manufacturing base, but its excess inventory led to abandoned homes, office buildings, and neighborhoods. Simply, the city’s footprint was bigger than it needed to be.
Anderson is an example on a much smaller scale. It is still a great town. As I’ve said many times we have an enviable amount of attractions—especially for a community of our size—and we have an ever increasing amount of foreign investment that is helping build our employment base. We withstood the loss of General Motors and have a bright future. But, we are built for a population that we no longer have.
Detroit and Anderson are certainly not unique. There are many communities in Indiana, the Midwest, and throughout the country that have had to evolve for various reasons. How many times have we heard as kids, or have said to someone younger than us, about how a busy part of town was nothing but a corn field years before? Well, in some towns, that area needs to be a corn field again. But how do you reduce the footprint? How do you make the community the appropriate size for the existing population?
That’s why I love the idea of Mounds Lake. It reduces our footprint, but does so in a way that could attract other people to our community and new business investment. As I wrote earlier it is a bold idea and could be a game changer for Anderson and Madison County.
The possibilities from a tourism standpoint alone are tremendous. The one tool we lack in our marketing toolbox for Madison County is water for recreational purposes. Yes, we already have water for recreation, but not the type that will bring people to the beach for a day of fun. It could also lead to other things that will enhance our quality of life.
I have long dreamt of Anderson and Madison County being a sports and music hot bed. The pieces are already in place for this to happen. Think about it from a sports standpoint. We have the Colts Training Camp at Anderson University. What if the Wigwam gets renovated—which I am still optimistic will happen—and it becomes a regular host to AAU camps and tournaments? What if we can attract an NBA D League franchise to make the Wigwam its home? What if we built a Minor League Baseball stadium on the water and had a Midwest League team locate in Anderson? Then we’d have the Colts, a D League team, and a Minor League Baseball team. Add that to some of the best harness racing in the country at Hoosier Park and great auto racing at Anderson Speedway, and you have a fantastic sports identity.
The foundation is already in place for the music too. We have the Gaithers in Alexandria and Hoosier Park is a very popular concert venue that brings many people to town. The Paramount is a great spot for smaller and more intimate concerts. Again, a renovated Wigwam could be an arena that plays a part in all of this too. Now, like I did with a Minor League Baseball stadium for sports, let’s add a new location for music too. Let’s build a 17,000 seat amphitheater that plays host to today’s hottest music acts.
Would it take hard work and a lot of dollars to make this dream of mine a reality? Yes. Is it farfetched? No! As I noted earlier, the Colts, Anderson Speedway, Hoosier Park, the Paramount, the Gaithers, and the Wigwam are already in place. Adding Mounds Lake takes things to a whole new level and could easily be the impetus for a waterfront stadium and/or amphitheater.
In addition, Mounds Lake provides the community with a much needed asset—drinking water. That will be vital to us as we grow and will also be an asset that can be sold to other communities. That too is very important.
I understand there are dissenting views and I want their voices to be heard. This is an important topic and it will require honest, open, and civil discussions for us to decide whether or not to move forward with the project.
I should also point out that this is a personal blog, and as such, is my personal opinion. The Visitors Bureau has taken an official stance that it wanted the environmental study of the lake—or Phase 2—to happen. Now that is has, the Bureau’s board will decide what the organization’s next position on the matter will be. That should happen in the next couple of weeks.
But personally, I’ve already decided how I feel about it. Mounds Lake reduces our footprint and at the same time brings in additional tourism and business development, creates exciting additional possibilities, and gives us an important asset to consume and sell. Count me in.
News, notes, and thoughts—It was my pleasure to be part of a group that had lunch with new Anderson University President John Pistole recently. He will do a great job for the University and community. It is great to have him back home…As we celebrate President Pistole’s return to the community, we lament the loss of Henry Bird from the community. Henry, the longtime publisher of the Herald Bulletin has taken on a new assignment with the company that has caused him to relocate. Henry is a great guy and friend and was a valued voice in the area. He will be missed…Family and friends recently celebrated my father-in-law’s birthday at Anderson Speedway. We had a great time. Rick Dawson and his team are top notch.
--Tom Bannon is executive director of the Anderson/Madison County Visitors Bureau