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Women's History Month: A female force in Indy's sports strategy gives back

Allison Melangton in the courtyard of Wheeler Mission's Center for Women and Children
Posted at 5:00 AM, Mar 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-29 11:18:10-04

INDIANAPOLIS — She's a female force in sports strategy here in central Indiana.

"A lot of people see me and say you are that woman in sports," said Allison Melangton, the senior vice president of Penske Entertainment, which owns the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar Series. "You are the woman that leads all the sporting events, but I see myself as a community builder through sports."

Melangton first drove into the racing capital of the world as a Maine native and an outsider.

"I moved here in 1983, sight unseen," Melangton said. "I had never been to Indiana and I didn't know a single person."

It didn't take long for Melangton to fall in love with Hoosier hospitality and Indianapolis, and the city took to her.

"I love this city and I love this state and I'll never leave," Melangton said.

Once she arrived, she buckled down and got to work. A few years prior to her arrival in Indy, the Indiana Sports Corp was founded. It's an organization that works to advance our community through sports.

"But not just about sports," Melangton said. "It's about what sports can do for good."

The organization would become key in developing a successful sport strategy in our state and capital city. In 1984, in the dark of night, the Baltimore Colts moved to Indy on the Mayflower and the sports strategy in Indianapolis began to take shape.

"From 1983 to now, the city is a completely different place," Melangton said, who arrived in Indy just in time to use her skills and influence to make an impact. "If you want to get involved in this city and have impact, you have the opportunity to do it."

The year 2008 stands out to Melangton as one of her favorite memories. That's when Indianapolis won its first Super Bowl bid.

"Jim Irsay walked in the room with tears in his eyes and he said we got it and I was like alright, lets' go," Melangton said.

With Melangton at the helm as the CEO and President of its Super Bowl Host Committee, Indy was poised to take its position in this spotlight for the first time.

"Getting the Super Bowl was absolutely one of the highlights of my career," Melangton said. "But it was a lot of years that it took to get there."

Four years of planning and preparation led to Super Bowl Host city success in 2012. It was a team effort from the committee, business owners, politicians and fans.

"This whole city and this whole state came together to put the Super Bowl together so I'll always be grateful for that opportunity," Melangton said.

Indianapolis was "Nap Town" no more. The world was watching the growing sports success in Indy, just as the world's eyes turn to the giant oval out at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway every month of May. It's been a tradition for more than 100 years and now Melangton finds herself out at the track in a prominent role.

"We hold the world's single-day largest sporting event, in the world, right here in Indianapolis, Indiana," Melangton said. "That is something to be proud of."

Even during the pandemic, the track hosted vaccine clinics and continued to host two races with reduced fans. This year, she said Roger Penske is ready to welcome IndyCar fans back to IMS.

Outside of sports, Melangton is involved with another organization whose goal is to improve Indianapolis.

"One of our challenges is that we have between 5-700 homeless women and children a year on our streets," Melangton said while outside of Wheeler Mission's Center for Women and Children. "That's not OK with me."

The Center is a safe space for women to rebuild their lives as well as gain skills and confidence.

Melangton considers herself a people person and enjoys spending time volunteering with the Mission. She also led the $14 million capital campaign to expand the Center. Melangton said she wants it to be a place where the people are proud to call it their home.

"I feel responsible as a female leader in this city to give back," Melangton said. "Be part of the impact. Be part of the change."

She says she hopes when other young girls look to her and all her work in the world of sports, they see her here at the Mission volunteering and trying to make the city better. Wheeler Mission offers volunteer opportunities.