For immediate release:
Nov. 19, 2015
INDIANAPOLIS - State Rep. Donna Harris (D-East Chicago) announced today that she will take up the effort by her late husband—former State Rep. Earl Harris—to attract a National Football League team and other professional sports franchises to Northwest Indiana.
Donna Harris has authored House Bill 1016, which would take the first crucial steps by creating a Northwest Indiana Professional Sports Development Commission, a group that would play a key role in regional efforts to attract pro franchises to the area. The measure, set for consideration during the 2016 session of the Indiana General Assembly that resumes on January 5, is co-authored by State Reps. Hal Slager (R-Schererville), John Bartlett (D-Indianapolis), and Chuck Moseley (D-Portage).
“I know that Earl had a dream that bringing the NFL to Northwest Indiana would be a centerpiece to improving the economic development opportunities for our part of the state, and I believe that dream is worth pursuing,” Donna Harris said. “Northwest Indiana already has a lot to offer, and I feel moving forward on these efforts will help improve our economy and bring more jobs for local residents.”
The 19-member commission outlined in Donna Harris’ bill would be charged with preparing a comprehensive master plan for attracting one or more pro sports franchises to the area. This plan would outline how to finance and build the facilities and other infrastructure needed to bring teams to Northwest Indiana.
“Since the NFL is the largest, most popular sports league in our country, it makes sense to explore any and all options that would enable us to offer Northwest Indiana as a place that would support a team,” Donna Harris said. “I know that people think there would be problems because of the area’s proximity to both the Chicago Bears and the Indianapolis Colts, but there are several instances where NFL franchises are very close to one another. Two New York teams play in the same stadium, and the Washington and Baltimore teams are as close to each other as downtown Chicago is to central Lake County.
“It’s important to note that this commission would also explore the possibilities of attracting franchises affiliated with Major League Baseball, the NBA, the National Hockey League, and Major League Soccer,” she added. “Our closeness to Chicago makes bringing a sports team and other development projects to our area a natural fit. Northwest Indiana offers great attractions like the lakefront, restaurants, and hotels…all of which cost far less on the Indiana side of the state line.”
The 19-member commission would include mayors from East Chicago, Gary, Hammond, Michigan City, LaPorte, Portage, and South Bend, as well as officials from Lake, Porter, LaPorte, and St. Joseph Counties, and representatives from state government.
“I’m sure there are those who feel the ambitions contained in this bill are unrealistic, but I believe that those of us who feel that Northwest Indiana offers unlimited potential should pursue any and all chances to improve the lives of the people who live and work in the region,” Donna Harris said. “Earl has taught me that no dream is impossible when it is founded in the best intentions for those around us, and I believe there is nothing wrong in trying to do what is best.”