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Pacers telethon, bringing the Colts to town and surviving a blizzard: David Frick helped shape Indy

3 questions with David Frick, a top advisor to William Hudnut.
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Posted at 6:28 PM, Apr 11, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-11 18:28:12-04

INDIANAPOLIS — David Frick served as the man behind former Indianapolis Mayor William Hudnut, who brought the Colts to town 40 years ago.

Frick, an Indiana University graduate with a law degree from Harvard University, was Hudnut's deputy mayor from 1976-1982, and continued as a close adviser until Hudnut left office in 1992.

Frick provided the guiding force and legal framework for Hudnut's biggest ideas and moments, setting up major events that shaped Indianapolis into the city it is today.

Frick hammered out the contracts that brought the Colts to Indianapolis in 1984. He hid Hudnut's plane tickets to keep him from leaving town when Indianapolis was buried in snow in 1978.

And he was there in 1979 when Hoosiers shelled out their money during a telethon that kept the Indiana Pacers from moving to another city.

We asked Frick about that Pacers telethon, the blizzard, and the big gamble that made Indianapolis an NFL city.

Question: The Pacers were nearly bankrupt in 1979 and there was a telethon that Mayor Hudnot was a significant part of. Can you tell us about that?

Frick: The ownership group of the Pacers back then just ran out of energy and money. And so they needed some help... The outside investors wanted a commitment and season ticket sales or they were going to sell the franchise and move it away.

Nancy Leonard (then Pacers general manager) and Bobby Leonard (then the team's coach), came up with the idea of doing the telethon, which had never happened in the past (and) it'll probably never happen again in financing of sports activities.

1977: Telethon keeps the Pacers in Indianapolis

And so they put it together. We pulled it off.

Question: You were working for Mayor Hudnut during the blizzard of '78. I understand that he had travel plans and you persuaded him to stay in town. Tell us about that.

Frick: This was not the finest moment for Bill Hudnut. He had been invited to a White House dinner and he really wanted to go to that. Unfortunately, he was out of town a few months beforehand when we had an ice storm, and he got a lot of criticism from local media for not being in Indianapolis when they had a snow emergency. So he still wanted to go to Washington DC and I tried to urge him to stay in Indianapolis and focus on getting a handle on the snow emergency that we predicted was coming. I actually went so far as hiding his ticket. He threatened to fire me several times for doing that. But it worked out well because he was a mastermind in public relations.

REMEMBER WHEN: 39 years since Blizzard of 1978

You can't fully prepare for something of that magnitude happening. And we were clearly didn't have the equipment. We had 28 snow plows and didn't even make a dent.

Question: The city built the Hoosier Dome while you were working for the mayor. This seemed like a really big gamble because you didn't have an NFL team at the time. Was it a big gamble?

Frick: An incredibly big gamble. If it had not worked out in some fashion Bill Hudnut's career would have been over... We had (expended) so much energy to simply get the Hoosier Dome approved that voters would have tossed him out. So, it's a big gamble on his part. And had he not made that decision to build in anticipation of getting a franchise, the city wouldn't be what it is today.

1984: Colts arrive in Indianapolis

Contact WRTV reporter Vic Ryckaert at or on X/Twitter: @vicryc.