On Thursday afternoon, family and friends gathered in the Bankers Life Fieldhouse entry pavilion for the dedication of the Mel Simon Memorial Parkway.
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett was on hand to officially dedicate the stretch of road that spans from Maryland St. to South St. on Pennsylvania Ave. in the name of Melvin Simon, who with his brother Herb, purchased the Indiana Pacers franchise in 1983.
“He is and will always be the kind of extraordinary figure that transcends any need for reflection,” Mayor Hogsett said. “His life well lived ensures that the name Simon is familiar in ears here of those who call Indianapolis home and throughout our nation.”
Following Hogsett’s moving words about the life of Mel Simon — who passed away in 2009 — two of Simon’s daughters, Cindy Simon Skjodt and Debbie Simon, spoke about the values that their father espoused and passed down to the next generation.
“He made a success of himself with stubborn tenacity, bombastic good will, and had a great heart for those people in trouble and in need,” said his daughter Debbie.
“It’s nice to know that he has something that will always be here, which I’m glad for.”
When Mel Simon arrived in Indianapolis in the 1950s, the city bore little resemblance to its current state. His brother Herb took some convincing from Mel to see the vision of a booming midwestern city.
“He fell absolutely madly in love with the city,” Pacers Sports & Entertainment Owner Herb Simon explained. “And he saw things that, believe me, if you knew Indianapolis in the ’50s, only he could see. He saw the future. He saw opportunity.”
The impact that the Simons made on the growth of Indianapolis and the state of Indiana as a whole is one that forever changed the face and skyline of what had previously been known as a sleepy city.
“I am absolutely certain the the Simon family has touched the lives of every citizen of our city and every citizen of our state,” PS&E Vice Chairman Jim Morris said.
And on Thursday, with several members of the Simon family on hand, the face of the city changed once again, adding a new street name — the Mel Simon Memorial Parkway — to a stretch of road that passes one of the properties closest to Mel Simon’s heart: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the home of the Indiana Pacers, the Indiana Fever, and so many entertaining events that bring the city and state together.
“I think he’s looking down on us now with that big grin,” said his daughter Cindy. “He would be very proud and honored.”