Disclaimer: I have yet to attend a B1G Tournament or Championship game. Rather, I am stating my argument here based off my personal experiences with both cities and what I have read about them.
Earlier today, I was shared this article from the Lost Letterman, titled "B1G Needs to Boot Indianapolis for Chicago." Jim Weber makes some great arguments why Chicago is better than Indianapolis, but I do not completely agree with him. To quickly sum up, Weber states that attendance, venues, and marketing are 3 reasons why Chicago is better for the Big Ten.
First, with attendance, we all know that this year's B1G Tournament has been sold out for awhile. However, I do not think that is entirely because the tourney is being held in Chicago. This year going into the tournament, 4 teams (Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, & Ohio State) are in the Top 10 and all have a chance at winning the title. With this, there is also Wisconsin, which has been the troll of the B1G this year, and though the rest of the teams are not receiving votes, most of them have shown that they have the capability to defeat the Top 5 teams and to win the B1G Tourney as well. This has been the most talented and competitive conference we have seen in years. And what does this result in? Ticket sales!
I believe that if this tournament we held in the middle of a cornfield in Illinois or Iowa miles from the nearest city, people would still come just because of how good the conference is this year. Meanwhile, the last couple of tournaments have been mildly competitive in comparison, and we had an idea of who would be in the final game. After all, the last time Ohio State did not make it to final game was in 2008.
Also, I can assure you that a majority of the tickets have been purchased by Indiana, Ohio State, Michigan, MSU and Wisconsin fans, given their results this year. I wouldn't be surprised if there is a good number from Minnesota and Illinois given how they both started their seasons as well.
Basically, ticket sales come down to the talent on the court, not the location. If you give your customers a desirable and great product on the court, they will drive for miles just to see it.
As for the football championship, it goes along with the basketball tournament in that you have to have a great product on the field if you want to sell tickets. We can all agree that the match up going into this year's game was terrible. Had Ohio State and Penn State been eligible I'm sure more tickets would have been sold and it would be near capacity. The 2011 Championship would have seen a larger attendance if it wasn't a trial run and with fans not being as cautious about buying tickets. Plus, the Big Ten has been on a down slide for the last couple of seasons. Had the B1G Championship Game decided who goes to the National Title Game, those tickets would sell like hot cakes no matter the location.
Secondly, the venues.
First off, for me, I really don't see too much in a difference between Bankers Life and the United Center. That's up to the readers to debate. However, I will say that Bankers Life has an advantage over the United Center in terms of location. I have been to Chicago hundreds of times and have never come close to the United Center. According to Google Earth, the United Center is almost 2 miles west of the Chicago River. If you want to walk that distance this time of year, have fun with that, since you need to walk an additional mile if you are coming from Millennium Park. Also, from what I have heard, there is almost nothing around the United Center, and good luck with parking.
Meanwhile in Indianapolis, you take a couple steps out your door and then you are standing in front of Bankers Life. No need to walk a long distance towards the end of the winter season. No need to take a cab or park far away. Everything you need is right there. Also, downtown Indianapolis embraces the event. All 12 team have a centralized bar or restaurant within a few blocks of Bankers Life Fieldhouse for fans to meet for food, drinks, or even to watch the games if they don't have tickets.
Finally, the City of Indianapolis embraces the event. There is a reason the city is the host of the Final Four every five years. It lives and breathes basketball and loves the game like nowhere else. Bankers Life Fieldhouse is a basketball arena first and foremost, unlike the multi-purpose United Center. People in Indiana pack the place too, with over 18,000 fans regularly attending high school games in the facility. The arena is built in a way that basketball is THE event to where even the multitude of ads, common in today's arena, fade into the background.
Now, as for Soldier Field vs Lucas Oil for the B1G Championship, personally there is no contest. I may be biased as a Packers fan, but Soldier Field would be a horrible location for the game. Chicago in December can be miserable, and being in Soldier Field just makes it worse. I did find this quote interesting:
While Lucas Oil Stadium has the advantage of being indoors, there’s nothing special about it. Soldier Field is the second-most famous NFL stadium behind Lambeau Field and just feels like it’s meant to host a Big Ten football title game.
Since when is Soldier Field the 2nd most famous NFL Stadium? Last time I checked, Lucas Oil ranks as one of the best, if not the best, stadium in the NFL. Currently, Stadium Journey ranks Lucas Oil as the best stadium in the NFL, and back in 2008 when it opened, it started off as the 6th best venue according to Sports Illustrated.
Meanwhile, Soldier Field ranked 17th, and has received unfavorable scores. Let's not forget the grass in the stadium that is completely ripped up and brown by October. Just because Soldier Field might be in a better location than Lucas Oil does not mean it should host the B1G Championship.
If you need further evidence why Soldier Field would be a horrible location, allow me to present this:
In terms of marketing, Chicago may have Indianapolis beat. After all, the B1G and BTN Headquarters are in Chicago. Chicago has a larger network of transportation compared to Indy. When looking at the effects on Rutgers and Maryland, on average Chicago is slightly closer for most schools than Indianapolis (both between 300-350 miles on average). Sure, Indy may be easier to reach by car than Chicago because you don't have to worry about traffic jams and paying annoying tolls like Chicago (Indiana Toll Road, Chicago Skyway, Tri-State Tollway), but with an expanding Big Ten, it is easier, and maybe cheaper, to find flights to/from Chicago than it is for Indy. However, Indy's airport is much better than flying out of O'Hare or Midway for multiple reasons, but sometimes you do need that pesky layover or cram yourself into a smaller plane just to get to Indianapolis.
Personally, I still think that the B1G Football Championship should stay in Indianapolis. Period. As for the basketball tourney, I'll let Chicago give it a try and give Indy another chance. I can understand where Weber is coming from, and I can tell he has a Chicago bias. I think Chicago is a great city as I have traveled their many time, but Indy has shown us multiple times that it is a great host city for large sporting events. At the end of the day my vote is for Indy.