Colts cheerleader calendar shoot ‘a slap in the face to Northwest Indiana’
By Carrie Napoleon Post-Tribune correspondent August 27, 2013 5:14PM
Speros Batistatos, president of the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority, announced major changes Thursday to the South Shore Air Show. | Post-Tribune File Photo
Updated: September 29, 2013 6:47AM
Local tourism officials are calling a move by the Indianapolis Colts to have the organization’s 2013-2014 cheerleader calendar shot on Lake Michigan’s beaches in Saugatuck, Mich., instead of along Indiana’s shoreline a slap in the face to Northwest Indiana residents.
W.F. Bill Wellman, vice chairman of the board of the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority, said he could not understand why the Colts would pass up what he describes as some of the most beautiful beaches in the world to go out of state.
“I felt like it was a slap in the face to Northwest Indiana,” Wellman said Tuesday.
He brought the matter before the rest of the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority last week and tapped Speros Batistatos, president and CEO, to respond.
In an email Tuesday to the Colts’ Avis Roper, senior director of communications, and Stephanie Pemberton, senior director of marketing, Batistatos echoed Wellman’s statements writing the decision to travel past the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and the Indiana Dunes State Park to do the photo shoot in Michigan is an affront to all Hoosiers, but especially those in Northwest Indiana.
“Many of us are fans, some of us are supporters, and all of us, when visiting Indy or the surrounding counties, are taxpayers who support the construction and operation of the facilities the Colts call home,” Batistatos wrote.
Pete Ward, chief operating officer for the Colts, Tuesday defended the decision.
“It is certainly not intended as a slight to Northwest Indiana. We will be happy to consider the dunes as we would any other part of the state,” Ward said in a telephone interview Tuesday.
He said most NFL teams go out of state or out of the country for their photo shoots.
The organization has gone out of state three times in 30 years to shoot the cheerleader calendar, once to Florida, once to Kentucky and this year to Michigan.
Destination shoots are selected as a way to reward the cheerleaders with a “mini-vacation” for all their hard work, he said. Most shoots are in and around the Indianapolis area.
But Bastistatos called the photo shoot in Michigan “a very poor decision.”
“At a time when all Hoosiers and Hoosier companies should be focused on keeping our state as competitive as possible and leveraging relationships, the Colts ignored the second most populous area of Indiana. The message to our residents is that their resources and assets are not worthy of your public relations, marketing, support or even consideration,” he continued in the letter.
On Tuesday, Batistatos called the Colts’ decision to use a Michigan Beach “inexcusable” and “reprehensible.”
“When your state has facilities as good or better … it is nothing more or nothing less than a snub to Northwest Indiana,” he said.
No one in the Colts’ organization thought about the ramifications of hosting this photo shoot out of state or what the decision would mean to the beach communities of Indiana, he said, and the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority was not contacted by anyone from the Colts organization to see if Northwest Indiana’s beaches could accommodate their needs.
The move demonstrates the lack of reciprocation between Indianapolis and the northwestern corner of the state, Batistatos said. The Colts’ organization reached out to Whiteco Industries when it needed a hotel built in order to win their bid to host the Super Bowl.
Now when an opportunity arise to help promote Northwest Indiana, it does not occur, he said.
“It’s an affront. It’s an insult,” Batistatos said.
Ward said the football organization has a solid record of promoting tourism in Indiana.
“Our record for attracting visitors to Indiana speaks for itself,” Ward said.
Whether shooting the calendar in the state or out of state, the goal is to drum up interest in the Colts and lure new fans, Ward said.
“We do want to promote Indiana. If we can draw people to Indiana by shooting a calendar out of state, the more the better,” he said. “It’s no secret a lot of people have vacation homes in Michigan, Florida and other states,” Ward said.
The team hosts events throughout the state year-round and was in LaPorte in 2012 and in Valparaiso and Fair Oaks Farm in Newton County in 2013 for events.