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Indy Super Bowl organizers moving ahead with plans

September 23, 2010

Indianapolis organizers expect the 2012 Super Bowl to be played on its original date, despite growing concerns that an NFL work stoppage could force postponement or cancellation of the game.

At a news conference Thursday, host committee officials said they were moving "full-speed" ahead with their plans for Feb. 5, 2012. They outlined a number of initiatives that either have started or will begin in the next several months, and are beginning to line up volunteers for the biggest sporting event Indy has ever hosted.

And it appears everything is on schedule — for now.

"The NFL has instructed us to be ready Feb. 5, 2012, and we will be," host committee president Allison Melangton said. "I get concerned about things that I can control, not something that I can't."

The biggest concern for football fans is a lockout.

NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith reiterated Wednesday that he is "100 percent" certain league owners will lock out players before the start of next season. The current collective bargaining agreement expires in March, and Smith often points to the league's television deals, which will pay the owners whether next season's games are played or not.

Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner, has argued owners will eventually have to pay that money back if games are canceled.

Players are already preparing for the worst.

As early as the summer of 2009, player representatives instructed teammates to start saving additional money for health insurance and living expenses in case of a lockout. Since last week, seven teams, including the Colts, have voted unanimously to decertify the union — a procedural step that would allow the union to continue operating as a group and give players the right to sue owners under an antitrust law that bars boycotts of group organizations.

If the NFLPA does decertify, it is not expected to happen until after this season.

In Indianapolis, the questions are all about the Super Bowl.

Colts owner Jim Irsay and Melangton both acknowledged last month that the league had asked city officials to keep blocks of hotel rooms and city venues open for the original Super Bowl weekend, Feb. 4-5, and the following weekend. League spokesman Brian McCarthy later explained both dates were part of Indy's bid for the game, which was awarded the same day NFL owners decided to opt out of the CBA.

Melangton also said Thursday that although the committee has stayed in frequent contact with league officials about the labor situation, it has not taken out insurance to cover the costs of the game if it is canceled.

"Our job is to be ready to run the Super Bowl on Feb. 5, 2012, and that's what we're going to do," host committee chairman Mark Miles said. "If it is a week later, we can pick it up and put it down a week later — if that's what you call a contingency plan."

Committee members are monitoring infrastructure and restoration residential projects on the city's near east side, construction of a new educational and wellness center at Tech High School and an indoor bubble at the University of Indianapolis, where the NFC team will practice during Super Bowl week. It has been dubbed the Super Bowl's legacy project.

They are also making entertainment plans for a downtown street, which is getting an $11 million facelift. Organizers are billing the Georgia Street project as Olympic village meets the Super Bowl.

"It's just going to bleed NFL," Miles said. "There will be a lot of people who won't be able to go to the game, so we want this to be a place that Hoosiers can get into the ambiance of the of game, and for our guests, we want to give them something to answer the question: Why play in a cold-weather city?"

The hope is that Georgia Street will become a meeting place for city residents before and after the game. But will the game go on as planned?

"We're taking our lead from the NFL," Melangton said. "Our direction from them is they're planning to have the game, and we're planning to be ready to put it on."

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