IT'S WAY PAST TIME TO GRANT ELVIS HIS DUE
Elvis performed his final concert in Indianapolis. The event goes largely ignored complains Indianapolis Star columnist Matt Tully.
By Matthew Tully
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It’s great that everyone is excited about the idea of the Market Square Arena site finally being redeveloped.
But as that project moves forward, perhaps we should discuss a related and woefully unappreciated side
story.

I’m talking, of course, about the shocking lack of respect given to the most significant event to ever occur in
the former arena: that being the
final concert ever performed by Elvis Presley. (And, yes, I say that
with sincere apologies to fans of the ABA-era Pacers.) History is sometimes made in unpredictable ways.
For Indianapolis, this piece of music history stems from nothing more than a routine scheduling decision --
one that had Elvis arriving in Indianapolis in June of 1977 to play the final concert of what would sadly
become his final tour during the final weeks of his life.

Every summer, when the anniversary of the event arrives, a little noise is made. A minor event with
impersonators at the City Market, perhaps, and maybe a few short stories in the local media. But that’s it;
the moment in music and pop culture history has never received the attention and reverence it deserves in
its own hometown. Nutty fans like me mourn.

I don’t get it. This is a town that flips out when Rob Lowe shows up to film a few sitcom scenes or when
Ashley Judd runs across the Speedway in a sundress. But it ignores its unique tie to perhaps the biggest
star of all time. What am I missing?

Elvis’ home in Memphis is a mecca, a pilgrimage destination for overzealous fans like me. In Nashville, the
recording studio he occasionally used is now part of a Country Music Hall of Fame tour that I, of course,
have forced my wife to endure. The Mississippi town where he was born attracts tens of thousands of fans
each year. And while the Indy-to-Elvis connection is nowhere near as deep as it in is those places, there is
something important about the connection.

Hey, I’m serious!

I bring all this up -- yes, once again -- because of the renewed effort to rebuild the old Market Square
Arena site. The mayor is talking about a grocery store, apartments and maybe office space. His people
hope it will be “architecturally significant.” I just hope it sparks an effort to make up for nearly 36 years of
ignoring something musically significant.

So what should be done? Personally, I think two recent additions to the city’s public art collection can serve
as guides.

First, there is the wonderful mural of Kurt Vonnegut that graces the side of a building on Massachusetts
Avenue. More murals like that one, with a four-story Vonnegut looking his rumpled best, would attract
attention for a city that isn’t exactly known for having a quirky side. It’d be a great way to mark the city’s
Above: Elvis in an early visit to Indianapolis and below 20
years on during his final concert in June 1977.
connection to stars such as David Letterman and Reggie Miller, and, yes, to memorialize Elvis Presley’s final bow.

A few blocks away sits the disaster of a statue honoring John Wooden. The sculpture features the legendary basketball coach talking to a group of legs that
are meant to represent his players but actually look like victims of an upper-body massacre out of “The Walking Dead.” Nonetheless, its prominent Georgia
Street location makes you realize how nice it would be if more statues and sculptures dotted Downtown.

For all of its grand war memorials, and despite some improvements in recent years, Indianapolis remains a city with far too little public art. Drive 30 minutes
north from Downtown and you’ll find Carmel, a much smaller city that has filled its Downtown with outdoor art. It’s time for Indianapolis to do the same.
Here’s an idea: Let’s kick-start an increased push for public art with a belated nod to The King. A statue. A mural. Something. Anything.

A former colleague suggested last week that more than a decade of failed attempts to redevelop the Market Square Arena site could be due to “The Curse of
Elvis” -- fair punishment for not adequately acknowledging a historic moment in both the city’s history and music history. That might sound crazy. But should
we continue to tempt fate?

I say we shouldn’t. It’s time for a fitting tribute to the King of Rock and Roll’s last stand.