If the 10 three-ringer binders holding Indianapolis' initial bid for the 2012 Super Bowl are stacked on top of one another,
they stand 3 feet tall. But the heart of the city's proposal isn't in there yet.
Sent to NFL officials March 31, the preliminary bid is mostly about logistics: how the city would line up enough hotel rooms, party venues, parking spaces and shuttle buses to handle the 100,000-plus visitors the big game typically attracts.
While fulfilling the basics is a must, those details aren't what will make the city's pitch shine. That work begins in earnest now, said Mark Miles, who's leading Indianapolis' Super Bowl team.
"We've been gearing up and brainstorming about the more creative aspects to hosting the game," said Miles, president of Central Indiana Corporate Partnership. "Now it gets really, really interesting."
The bid committee set up a Web site, www.our2012sb.com, in mid-February to encourage input from the community--adopting a more inclusive approach than organizers did last year when bidding on the 2011 game.
NFL owners narrowly voted to play that game in Dallas, where a 100,000-seat stadium is in the works. This year, Indianapolis is vying against bids from Houston and Phoenix, Ariz.
Another change this year is an eight-member community advisory council--separate from the 50-plus-member bid committee--created to offer perspective on the plans. Although the community council has held just one meeting so far, Miles solicited ideas from the public during a town-hall-type meeting last month.
Organizers want to get more people involved in this year's bid, said local attorney Jack Swarbrick, a partner at Baker & Daniels LLP and Indiana Sports Corp. board member who has been involved in planning sporting events here for more than two decades.
The element of surprise was important last year, he said. Since most NFL owners didn't know much about the city, the bid committee wanted to wow them with an unexpected pitch.
To keep the lid on the proposal--which included a David Letterman-delivered list of the Top 10 reasons the league should pick his hometown--only 15 people were part of the inner circle drafting the bid, Swarbrick said.
This time around, the owners know the city better and more members of the community are helping to elevate the bid. In addition to the main planning committee, subcommittees already have formed to address various aspects of the city's pitch.
"There are more people who feel a sense of ownership in this bid," Swarbrick said.
While the committee is open to all ideas, it mainly has asked residents to brainstorm about two specific parts of the bid: transforming downtown Indianapolis--during February, no less--into a pedestrian-friendly Super Bowl Village party zone, and coming up with a so-called "legacy" project that will remain in the city once the crowds have all packed up and gone.
The NFL wants host cities to build something that continues to benefit the community after the game. In the 2011 bid, Indianapolis proposed turning the second indoor practice facility the NFL requires into a national center focused on fighting childhood obesity.
Miles has said he wants something more all-encompassing this time around, engaging youth groups, and social services and cultural and arts organizations. To further that idea, he and others have met with a slew of organizations from the Arts Council of Indianapolis to the United Way of Central Indiana.
Organizers have until May 9 to file a final written proposal with the NFL. In the meantime, they will get feedback on the initial bid during a day-long meeting with league officials April 24 in New York.
Since other host-city hopefuls also have the chance to revise their bids, Miles wants to keep the details under wraps until the deadline has passed. He won't say which of the community ideas might find their way into the bid, but acknowledged some already have made the cut.
Miles did share one idea that didn't fly: saving the Teflon-coated fiberglass roof from the soon-to-be demolished RCA Dome and draping it over the Soldiers and Sailors Monument to create a massive tent over the Circle downtown.
"It was clever, but not workable," Miles said. "The engineers were scratching their heads about that one."
Some broader themes also are gathering steam, he said, such as doing as much as possible to make a game in Indianapolis environmentally friendly. At this year's Super Bowl in Phoenix, sponsors could buy carbon "credits" to offset energy consumed at the game and two nearby hotels.
But Indianapolis could take the green idea further, Miles said.
"The more we look into, the more interesting it is," he said. "We want to consider the ecological footprint of the game [and events]."
For some, the focus on gathering input is refreshing--especially since it makes the process easy by using e-mail and online social networking sites like Smaller Indiana.
"If more things operated this way, we'd be getting more community involvement," said Molly Wilkinson Chavers, director of Indy Hub and member of the bid committee's community advisory council. "The final product is going to be something unusual, creative and energetic."
One similarity between this year's bid and the 2007 effort is the corporate community's financial support. Indianapolis leaders again are working to secure $25 million in private funding to pay for host-city expenses, rather than rely on tax money. So far, all of last year's donors have made a pledge, although Miles said some gifts are smaller so more sponsors must be recruited.
Miles hopes to have the pledges in hand when he and his team make their full, in-person pitch to NFL owners at their May 19-21 meeting in Atlanta. A decision is expected by the end of the meeting.
Miles said whether the killer idea comes from a community meeting or not, giving the public a voice is worth the effort.
"There's some value in and of itself in letting folks know that this is not a private, smoke-filled-room-type process," he said.