You might think that, after spending four years preparing for and then orchestrating what a multitude of impartial observers proclaimed to be the most successful Super Bowl ever, Allison Melangton would have found a quiet beach somewhere to kick back, relax and let the puffy clouds drift by.
Uh, not quite.
On July 19, the 51-year-old Melangton officially finished her tenure as president and CEO of the Indianapolis Super Bowl Host Committee.
On July 20, she left for London to serve as a producer of NBC’s Olympic gymnastics coverage.
She returned on Aug. 9 to prepare to enroll and move her son, Cameron, to Ball State University for his freshman year.
That was followed by spending the next two weeks at the elbow of her predecessor at the Indiana Sports Corp., Susan Williams, in a transition phase. And, upon Williams’ retirement, on Sept. 4, Melangton moved into the big office at the Sports Corp. as its president, returning to the organization where she served from 1994 to 2008 before taking on Super Bowl duties.
Perhaps it’s easier to hit the ground running when you never slow down to more than a fast trot.
“There’s no time to rest,” said Melangton in her Pan Am Plaza office adorned with photos of Super Bowl memories on the wall, but also with boxes on the floor and shelves stacked with Super Bowl follow-up and after-action reports.
“In this city, we don’t have a history of sitting back and saying, ‘Wow, that was great, now let’s take a break.’ That goes all the way back to [the first ISC president] Sandy Knapp. She set the tone on that. It was always, ‘What’s the next thing? We have to keep moving.’
“This is how Indianapolis keeps an edge on its competition. This is not a seasonal thing we do. Not anymore.”
Melangton comes to the Sports Corp. at either the end—or a continuation, depending on your viewpoint—of an extraordinary run: an NCAA Men’s Final Four in 2010; a Women’s Final Four in 2011; Big Ten men’s and women’s basketball tournaments in 2010, 2011 and 2012; the inaugural Big Ten championship football game last November; the Super Bowl in February; and the just-concluded BMW Championship in golf.
And that’s in addition to the Indianapolis Colts, the Indiana Pacers, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, etc.
“I think it has taken Indianapolis to another level of awareness,” she said. “We really have been on a media stage unlike any other previous time. What other city could possibly have that lineup?”
But again, no time to exhale. The Big Ten football championship returns in December. An NCAA men’s basketball regional, as well as NCAA swimming and lacrosse, come to Indy in the spring. Two more Final Fours (men’s, 2015; women’s, 2016) are on the horizon.
And after Indy missed hosting any Olympic-related events this year (the first time that has happened since 1980), Melangton wants to pursue trials in one or more sports in 2016. She will begin conversations with national governing bodies next week.
Melangton said someone told her she should have used the Super Bowl springboard to dive into a national position of sports prominence. She didn’t consider it.
“I think I can contribute here,” she said. “I’m honored to be part of continuing this history. I believe in our mission, and I love our staff. We’re the caretakers of a public trust, and I treasure that.”
Melangton credits Knapp as a mentor; Dale Neuburger, who hired her at the Sports Corp.; her predecessor, Williams; and, especially, Mark Miles, who served as chairman of the Super Bowl host committee.
“I’m a lot wiser than I was four years ago and much more of a strategic thinker, thanks to Mark,” Melangton said. “He encouraged creativity to problem-solving—only he never saw them as problems, only challenges.”
There looms, of course, a major challenge. Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard already has announced the city will bid for another Super Bowl, in 2018.
“I will direct the bid effort,” Melangton acknowledged, “and our ISC staff will put it together.”
But if the bid is successful, it will be left to someone else to run it. She pointed to the 30, 3-inch thick after-action binders in her office.
“Those and a bottle of champagne will be my welcoming gift to the next Super Bowl CEO,” she said. “Then they can have at it.”•
Benner is senior associate commissioner for external affairs for the Horizon League college athletic conference and a former sports columnist for The Indianapolis Star. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He also has a blog, www.indyinsights.com.