When the Indiana Pacers took the American Basketball Association championship in 1970, Indianapolis Mayor Richard Lugar promised to “to do all we can to produce an arena.” Combining this vow with a pledge to preserve the historic City Market district, dating to 1867, Lugar partnered with two private investors to build Market Square Arena. The complex, located between Ohio, Alabama, New Jersey, and Washington Streets included an 18,000-seat multi-use stadium, two 12-story office buildings and three parking garages. The stadium, which boasted the largest dome ever constructed of laminated wood, was dramatically situated atop the two parking towers, with Market Street running underneath.
When the arena opened in 1974, it was met with the excitement of basketball fans along with community leaders enthusiastic about this early public-private partnership designed to revitalize downtown Indianapolis. “I have tried to tell the world that cities can grow and come alive again at the heart,” Lugar proclaimed; ” that business will respond to imaginative local government initiative.”
Market Square Arena became home to the Pacers, who joined the NBA in 1976. The stadium was also considered one of the finest ice hockey facilities in the nation. Wayne Gretzky began his professional career there with the Racers. Michael Jordan made his comeback there in 1995 with the Chicago Bulls, who later faced the Pacers when the arena hosted the NBA Eastern Conference Finals in 1998. But the venue may be best remembered for its place outside of sports history. Elvis Presley gave his last performance there June 26, 1977, less than two months before his death. Ironically, a local reviewer described the event as “downright tacky and outdated.” “It’s time ardent Presley fans…start demanding more,” he wrote.