Benner/Sports and Arts & Entertainment, etc. and Lucas Oil Stadium and Opinion and Sports Business

BENNER: Super Bowl delegation's focus is two years out

February 6, 2010

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.—If you walked into the Broward County Convention Center the week before the Super Bowl, one of the first things you would have seen is “2012 Indy.”

It was a booth—required by the National Football League for future hosts—in the Super Bowl Media Center.

Sure, we’ve known for almost two years that Indianapolis was selected to host the Super Bowl, but it really hit home to see our city now being officially represented alongside this year’s host, South Florida, and next year’s host, North Texas.

And it was especially pleasurable to serve as one of those representatives, extolling Indy’s virtues to the hundreds of media types and assorted other members of the “NFL Family.”

Overall, expectations are high for Indianapolis as a Super Bowl host. No one expressed disappointment. That’s largely because Indianapolis is a known quantity with a proven track record. Many of those who regularly cover the NFL have been coming yearly for the NFL Scouting Combine, or have been to the city for the playoff games.

“Love your city,” was heard frequently.

Lucas Oil Stadium also received high praise.

Yes, we received the “weather question” a number of times. Hey, it is what it is … in this case, February in Indiana.

My response was, “We’ll be the warmest cold-weather city you’ll ever encounter.”

I didn’t say that as P.R.-speak. I said it because I believe it. The warmth of our community spirit. The warmth of the personalities of our volunteers. The effectiveness of our preparation that can ease hassles and prevent the feeling of being given a proverbial cold shoulder. And the tangible fact of 4,700 hotel rooms connected by skywalks.

The other thing we noted, especially recalling the Super Bowl the Indianapolis Colts won three years earlier here and the torrential deluge that took place here early this pre-Super Bowl week, was that we could promise, at game time, a perfect environment: 70 degrees and dry.

Yes, we still have some misconceptions to overcome. A columnist for the Miami Herald referred to Indianapolis as the “capital of bland.” And a USA Today writer trotted out the tired (and no longer accurate) India-No-Place reference.

I just want to ask, “Gentlemen, have you actually been to Indy lately?” My guess is, they have not.

One TV type stopped by the booth and wanted to know why, among our featured attractions, we hadn’t included “gentlemen’s clubs.” As a public service, I pointed out the location on the map of the one closest to Lucas Oil Stadium.

“That’ll be perfect,” he said.

Hey, got to have something for everybody.

For the Indianapolis delegation, this was a business trip with the immense pleasure of having the Colts here mixed in. I filled up a notebook in the first 24 hours at the Media Center. Others were doing the same in their various areas of ultimate responsibility when the game comes to Indy in two years.

Indy Host Committee President Allison Melangton, simply one of the best event planners there is, was here, there and everywhere, observing, taking notes, soaking up information. The community doesn’t know Michelle (Mel) Raines yet, but the Host Committee has hired an absolute gem in her as its vice president of operations. Raines, a native of South Bend and an Indiana University graduate, has orchestrated two Republican National Conventions and has an amazing grasp for the nuts and bolts.

The two years are sure to pass quickly. Host Committee Chairman Mark Miles has been comparing the enormity of the Super Bowl to the effort Indy brought together to stage the 1987 Pan American Games.

I have no doubt Indy again will rise to the occasion.

And I also have no doubt the game will take place as scheduled. Yes, there is talk of a labor impasse between the owners and players that could wipe out the 2011 season. Surely, with the NFL rising to the undeniable stature of America’s game, with (mostly) full stadiums, with television ratings skyrocketing, with corporate America totally buying into the product, both sides will not slay the fatted calf.

Surely.•

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Benner is director of communications for the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association and a former sports columnist for The Indianapolis Star. His column appears weekly. Listen to his column via podcast at www.ibj.com. He can be reached at bbenner@ibj.com. Benner also has a blog, www.indyinsights.com.

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