Indianapolis flags wave warm welcome as basketball fans breeze in for tourneys

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Big Ten men’s basketball tournament began Wednesday, bringing fans from across the country to Indianapolis.

Downtown business owners hope those visitors like what they see. That’s why the owner of Downtown Comics, Doug Stephenson, is encouraging other stores to hang an Indianapolis flag on their building. “We can sort of in a grassroots way put that image in people’s minds, in visitor’s minds.”

He suggested the idea on social media and already dozens of downtown business have put in orders for flags. “This is just one way to do it and show everybody that we’re moving forward and we’re moving forward in a positive way,” Stephenson said.

The first two games of the men’s tournament on Wednesday night brought fans who had never visited Indiana. News 8 caught up with some college friends who road tripped from Penn State. “It’s a big deal for me because this is probably my last games as a student and we didn’t get the season,” said Penn State senior Madisen Patanella.

Shannon Kirkland was among locals in the stands with no skin in either Wednesday game. The Indiana University fan said he bought tickets because he loves basketball that much. “The thrill of being there; there’s nothing like the fan experience in college basketball games.”

For the comic-book store owner, basketball fans like his flag are a sign the Circle City is close to coming full circle during the coronavirus pandemic. “We’ve got to start showing hope and a way forward, away from the dark times from last year,” Stephenson said.

Stephenson said several companies offer the flags online. However, to buy locally, Silver in the City on Massachusetts Avenue has a few for sale.

Four games were on the schedule for Thursday, including IU and Rutgers. Purdue University will play on Friday afternoon.

NCAA men’s March Madness basketball games, all of them at venues in Indiana, will start March 18 with First Four games in Bloomington and West Lafayette. Other games in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament will be at those sites as well as Lucas Oil Stadium, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indiana Farmers Coliseum and Hinkle Fieldhouse, all in Indianapolis. The Final Four will be at Lucas Oil Stadium, where alternating courts will be used.