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Sunday, March 3, 2024

Title Town

Welcome to 2024! A few months ago, I began seeing social media posts from high school friends celebrating a particular birthday, an age, of seemingly notable importance. I was born in a year ending in 4 — 1964 — so this turn of the calendar means I will celebrate a birthday ending in 0 this year. I won’t mark this birthday until June, and by then, I suppose I will embrace it. Consider this: the youngest Baby Boomers will be 60 in 2024.

In the feature for the first issue of 2024, “Sports Town” sportswriter Gordon Engelhardt looks back and ahead as he examines what makes Evansville a great sports town. Gordon talks with swimmer Lilly King, two-time Olympian (2016, 2020) and four-time Olympic medalist (two golds, one silver, and one bronze), who continues to compete at the top of her sport. Graduating from F.J. Reitz High School a year after Lilly, Dru Smith is a professional basketball player for the Miami Heat who Gordon also interviews. Dru played college basketball for the University of Evansville and the University of Missouri. Gordon thinks Dru’s hometown should be paying more attention to him; we agree. We were disappointed for Dru that his 2023-24 season ended when he sprained his ACL during the Nov. 22 game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. We wish him a successful recovery!

Our editors and writers had a lot of fun working with Gordon on the story. We also enjoyed developing the cover illustration. Through a referral, Creative Director Laura Mathis connected with Las Vegas-based photo illustration artist Ryan Olbrysh to create the issue’s cover image. Laura researched the photography and acquired permission to use the photos. Ryan created the layered image, which begins in black and white, reviewing the progress along the way so that Laura could suggest revisions. The illustrator shared with Laura that he likes to place “Easter eggs” — small, hidden icons or images hidden in artists’ work — in his commissions. Spoiler alert: A key to the cover is placed at the bottom of this page.

I hope a smaller story by John Martin attracts your interest. In “Big Dollar Dreams,” John talks to local officials about the recently announced plans to stabilize and upgrade Evansville’s Veterans Memorial Coliseum, also known as the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Coliseum. In December, the Vanderburgh County Council held a public open house at the Coliseum to generate awareness of the project, which will total $20-$30 million. The 1916 building is both a war memorial, housing roomfuls of artifacts, and a venue, hosting events ranging from conferences and civic meetings to wrestling and roller derby, weddings, bingo, civic meetings, and concerts.

I saw my first real rock concert at the Coliseum. My mother had taken us to see a few teenage idol concerts at Mesker Amphitheater and Roberts Municipal Stadium, but those don’t really count. On July 29, 1979, with my friend Bridget, I saw Molly Hatchet with AC/DC at Veterans Memorial Coliseum. I can’t say that I was an actual fan; I probably did not know even one Molly Hatchet song. I think we wanted to see a real concert and we were permitted to go. (Now that’s an aging Baby Boomer story for you.)

The Coliseum was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. It is a magnificent, iconic building that contributes to the structural definition of Evansville’s Downtown. It deserves our attention.

As always, I look forward to hearing from you!

Illustration by Ryan Olbrysh

Cover Key:
1. Mikaela Jenkins, Paralympic two-time gold medalist.
2. Dru Smith, Miami Heat guard.
3. Lilly King, two-time Olympic swimmer and two-time gold and silver and bronze medalist.
4. David Ragland, University of Evansville men’s basketball head coach.
5. Stan Gouard, University of Southern Indiana men’s basketball head coach.
6. Bob Griese, retired two-time Super Bowl-winning NFL quarterback with the Miami Dolphins.
7. Evan, Evansville Otters baseball team mascot, and Aero, Evansville Thunderbolts hockey team mascot.
8. Gabe Sollars, two- time IHSAA wrestling state champion.
9. Evansville Thunderbolts hockey team.
10. Calbert Cheaney, retired NBA small forward and shooting guard.
11. Ace Purple, University of Evansville’s mascot.
12. Archibald T. Eagle, University of Southern Indiana’s mascot.
13. Alan and Andy Benes, retired MLB pitchers.
14. Don Mattingly, retired MLB first baseman.
15. Don Mattingly’s jersey number, which was retired by the New York Yankees in 1997.
16. Roberts Municipal Stadium, former home of UE basketball that was razed in 2013.
17. Racine Belles sign at Bosse Field, in homage to its use as a filming location for 1992’s “A League of Their Own.”
18. Reitz Memorial High School’s 2022 IHSAA Class 2A girls’ soccer championship team.
19. Bosse Field, built in 1915 and the country’s third-oldest continually operating baseball park.
20. Weeping Basketball sculptural fountain, in honor of the 1977 plane crash that killed the UE basketball team, most of its coaching staff, and several boosters and supporters.
21. Evansville Triplets, a minor league baseball team from 1970 to 1984.
22. Ford Center, multi-use arena that replaced Roberts Stadium in 2011.

Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen is the managing editor of Evansville Living and Evansville Business magazines.

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