Indianapolis is the capital city of Indiana as well as the state's most populous city, with approximately 785,597 residents (2006). Indianapolis was founded in 1821 by state judge Jeremiah Sullivan and named for the combination of Indiana and "polis," the Greek word for city. Located on the White River, it was the initial intentions of the founders to use the waterway as a transportation hub, however, the river proved to be too sandy for large barge or ship traffic. Despite this, the city became a major hub for transportation, as it was situated along the original east-west National Road, and the site of expansive growth once the transcontinental rail system was established.
Today, Indianapolis is well known as a city with a strong sports reputation. Nicknames such as "The Amateur Sports Capital of the World" and "The Racing Capital of the World" have both been applied to Indianapolis. The city has hosted major sporting events such as the 1987 Pan American Games, the NCAA Basketball Tournament, the United States Grand Prix, and perhaps the most famous: the annual Indianapolis 500 race.
Indianapolis has shed its image as a manufacturing or Rust Belt city, thanks to an aggressive downtown revitalization campaign, as well as the diversification of the city's economic base. The opening of Circle Centre Mall in downtown Indianapolis signaled a revitalization and currently, the city is experiencing growth in the hospitality industry with the new Convention Center addition and the construction of Lucas Oil Stadium. A new high-rise hotel will be built to add more space for visitors. This contributes to the growing list of downtown accommodations and restaurants. Indianapolis International Airport is currently building a new midfield airport terminal, scheduled to open in 2008.
Indianapolis is the home to several colleges and universities that include Butler University, Indiana University, Purdue University- Indianapolis, Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana, Marian College, Martin University, Oakland City University- Indianapolis, and the University of Indianapolis.
Beginning in 1999, the city became host to the annual Indy Jazz Festival. The festival is a three day event held in Military Park near the canal. Past stars have included B.B. King, Aretha Franklin, Bruce Hornsby, Bela Fleck & The Flecktones, Kool and the Gang, Ray Charles, The Temptations, Dave Brubeck, Emmylou Harris, Chris Isaak, Jonny Lang, Norah Jones and other regional and local favorites. Every May, Indianapolis holds the 500 Festival, a month of events culminating in the Indianapolis 500 Festival Parade, which takes place the day before the running of the Indianapolis 500. Indianapolis is also home to the Indiana State Fair, as well as the Heartland Film Festival, The Indianapolis International Film Festival, the Indianapolis Theatre Fringe Festival, the Indianapolis Alternative Media Festival, the Midwest Music Summit and the Indianapolis LGBT Film Festival.
The city has a vibrant arts community that includes many fairs celebrating a wide variety of arts and crafts during the summer months. They include the Broad Ripple Art Fair,Talbot Street Art Fair, Carmel Arts Festival, and the Penrod Art Fair. Perhaps the largest of Indianapolis' ethnic and cultural heritage festivals is the Summer Celebration held by Indiana Black Expo. Indy's International Festival is held annually in November at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Local ethnic groups, vendors and performers are featured alongside national and international performers.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS), located in Speedway, Indiana, is the site of the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race (also known as the Indy 500), an open-wheel automobile race held each Memorial Day weekend on a 2.5 mile (4 km) oval track. The Indy 500 is the largest single-day sporting event in the world, hosting more than 257,000 permanent seats. The track is often referred to as "the Brickyard," as it was paved with 3.2 million bricks shortly after its initial construction in 1909. Today the track is paved in asphalt although a section of bricks remains at the start/finish line.
Indianapolis has an extensive municipal park system with nearly 200 parks occupying over 10,000 acres. The flagship Eagle Creek Park is the largest municipal park in the city, and ranks among the largest urban parks in the United States. Other major Indianapolis Regional parks include Garfield Park, Riverside Park, Sahm Park, Southeastway Park, and Southwestway Park. Additionally, Indianapolis has an urban forestry program that has garnered several Tree City USA awards from the National Arbor Day Foundation. Opened in 1988, the Indianapolis Zoo is the largest zoo in the state and lies just west of downtown. It is best known for its dolphin exhibit which includes the only underwater viewing dome in the Midwest.
The city celebrates its history in several local, yet world renowned museums. These include the Children's Museum of Indianapolis, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum, Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians & Western Art, Indiana State Museum, the NCAA Hall of Champions, the James Whitcomb Riley Museum Home, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum, and the Conner Prairie - a living history museum.