City's bid team revving up for Super Bowl pitch

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Indianapolis officials plan to use a downtown light show and $30 million in pre-raised corporate cash to wow the NFL’s team owners into granting the Circle City the title of Super Bowl host for the second time in six years.

Local bid officials also hoped to announce a new downtown hotel to be built before the 2018 game, but time might be running out on that effort.

ward-pete-mug Ward

The process to select the Super Bowl is filled with intrigue, including secretive bidding committees, hardcore owner-to-owner lobbying, and a voting process with a troubled past. Though many have tried to handicap the results, those closest to the process say it’s wholly unpredictable. With final bids due to the 32 team owners May 7, everything is hanging in the balance.

Indianapolis’ odds are further clouded by the uncertainty over whether Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay will attend the May 19-21 owners’ meetings in Atlanta, where the vote will take place.

The other two finalists—Minneapolis and New Orleans—are expected to try to exploit Indianapolis’ weaknesses, but they have their own deficiencies.

Fresh off an April 22 trip to New York to discuss their bid with NFL executives, Indianapolis officials are cautiously optimistic.

“This is an extremely competitive process,” said Colts Chief Operating Officer Pete Ward, who has attended dozens of NFL owners’ meetings.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the oral presentations, owners’ vote and announcement of the winner are all set for May 20.

Indianapolis’ bid committee will hold a press conference May 7, but with so many of the bid particulars kept secret, it’s unclear what will be discussed.

“You don’t want to show too many cards,” said Ward, a committee member.

Most owners base their decision on the written bid, said Jim Steeg, a California-based sports-event consultant and former NFL vice president who planned 26 Super Bowls.

“You can lose the bid with your oral presentation,” Steeg said, “but unless you really wow the owners, it’s tough to win more than one or two votes with your in-person presentation.”

superbowl-factbox.gifIt has happened, though. In 1979, Steeg recalled, Detroit was the first city to use a multimedia presentation.

“It was something they took from the automotive industry,” he said. “Before then, it was just sheets on an overhead projector. The owners were like, ‘Wow.’ It basically won them the bid.”

Secret ballot

The Super Bowl vote is the only one NFL team owners take by secret ballot. Steeg said that’s because the process is so political and many owners misrepresent whom they’re voting for.

“I talked to one owner and I said, ‘Have you counted your votes?’” Steeg recalled. “He said, ‘Yeah, I’ve got it. I’ve got 23 votes.’ I said, ‘You better count again.’ He got four votes and was out in the first round of voting.”

It’s also the only vote that doesn’t require a three-fourths majority. In 1983, before the simple majority rule was enacted, voting for the 1987 Super Bowl site took more than four hours when Philadelphia refused to concede after coming up on the short end of a 19-9 vote.

With three cities bidding this time, the lowest vote earner will be eliminated after the first vote. If on the second vote one of the two remaining cities doesn’t get 75 percent of the votes, a third vote follows simple majority rules.

With an estimated economic impact of $175 million for a host city, it’s easy to see why the process can turn hostile.

Cities will do almost anything to make their bids stand out. Indianapolis made headlines in 2008 when it used schoolchildren to personally deliver its bid to the 32 team owners and also delivered shrimp cocktail from St. Elmo Steakhouse.

In 2007 and 2008, Indianapolis was the first city to raise the money needed to host the game before the vote. Though local officials wouldn’t confirm how much has been raised this time, an executive from one of the companies solicited said more than 95 percent of contributors to the $28 million needed for the 2012 Super Bowl have re-upped.

Minneapolis has been trying to duplicate that feat, but it’s unclear if it has succeeded.

Indianapolis officials promised to unveil new surprises this time around.

But it isn’t the only city pulling out all the stops. Minneapolis is delivering its bid on iPads—donated by Minnesota-based Best Buy, and New Orleans officials are expected to showcase elements of their 2018 tricentennial celebration in their bid.

“Being creative and innovative, making your bid stand out, is the key,” Steeg said. “The idea of using an iPad is a good one.”

Indianapolis had hoped to surprise NFL owners with plans for a new upscale hotel—likely on the Pan Am Plaza site—during the final bid process, but it’s uncertain whether that will happen. Local hospitality officials declined to comment and Kite Realty Group Trust, which owns the site, did not return calls seeking comment.

NFL owners complained of the shortage of upscale downtown hotels in 2012.

Irsay’s role

For the last year, Irsay has lobbied his fellow owners hard to get the game back to Indianapolis. His role now remains unclear.

He was arrested March 16 for driving under the influence and possession of a controlled substance. He was admitted into an out-of-state rehabilitation clinic in mid-March, where he remains.

“He’s doing really well,” Ward said. “But it’s just too early to tell if he’ll be able to attend [the owners’ meetings].”

During Irsay’s absence, his daughter Carlie Irsay-Gordon is leading the team. Irsay-Gordon was involved in the bid process before her father’s arrest and “most likely” will continue to be whether or not he attends the meeting, Ward said.

Irsay’s absence is a blow to Indianapolis’ chances.

“He’s been Indianapolis biggest cheerleader and its biggest advocate among NFL owners and executives,” said Marc Ganis, president of Sportscorp Ltd., a Chicago-based sports business consultancy that counts several NFL teams as clients. “And it’s important to note that Jim is very well liked among NFL owners, so he has considerable sway.”

After all three bid committees give a 15-minute presentation, each city’s team owner gets five minutes to sway the other owners. If Irsay is unable to attend, Gordon-Irsay will likely deliver that address.

Indy’s uphill battle

Ganis said Irsay’s absence is not Indianapolis’ biggest problem.

“Overall, I’m not so high on Indianapolis’ odds for 2018,” he said. “They’re fighting an uphill battle even with Jim Irsay’s support.”

There’s a groundswell of support among NFL owners, Ganis said, to take the Super Bowl back to New Orleans in 2018 for the city’s tricentennial. New Orleans officials have promised to use the Super Bowl as a kick-off for that celebration.

Dave Moroknek, president of Indianapolis-based MainGate, which has handled NFL merchandise sales for the last four Super Bowls, said the tricentennial tie-in “is overblown.”

“I’m not sure how the city’s tricentennial does anything for NFL fans,” Moroknek said. “If I’m an NFL team owner, I want to put the Super Bowl in a city that makes it great, not because it’s 300 years old.”

New Orleans might be hurt by the fact that the Mercedes Benz Superdome experienced a 34-minute power outage when it last hosted the Super Bowl, in 2013.

Moroknek, whose company was handling merchandise sales in the Superdome when the power went out, disagreed with New Orleans officials who called it an innocuous incident.

“The New Orleans blackout is still very fresh in everyone’s mind,” Moroknek said. “I’ve heard a lot of discussions about that. The Super Bowl is the NFL’s showcase event and you can’t afford to have those types of incidents.”

Jay Cicero, president and CEO of the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, said the electrical problem has been corrected.

As for Minnesota, Moroknek said its bid will be hurt by the fact that the Vikings’ $975 million downtown Minneapolis stadium “has only been seen in drawings.”

Construction began in December. The facility won’t be up until 2016, and Ganis said the NFL might want to wait for 2019 or 2020 to grant Minneapolis the game.

“There’s precedent there,” Ganis said. “Indianapolis first bid for the 2011 Super Bowl, but got it in 2012. I think it could be the same way for Minneapolis.”

All three cities in early April submitted a preliminary bid, containing at least 150 pages. Then each bidder sent a contingent to the NFL’s New York headquarters to discuss their bid.

Indianapolis’ contingent—consisting of Ward; Indiana Sports Corp. CEO Allison Melangton; ISC executive Susan Baughman, who has been leading the day-to-day operations of the 2018 bid committee; Visit Indy CEO Leonard Hoops; Lucas Oil Stadium Director Mike Fox; and Deputy Mayor Ryan Vaughn—met with NFL Senior Vice President of Events Frank Supovitz and his staff for more than three hours.

The preliminary bid lays out options for venues, transportation, parking, lodging, security and team practice facilities.

Moroknek Moroknek

Final bids include features the cities hope will distinguish them—including financial offers and creative enticements. In 2012, Indianapolis was the first host to have a Super Bowl Village and a zip line. NFL officials liked the village so much, it’s now mandatory.

Tax breaks sought

The NFL also will expect a number of tax breaks.

NFL employees in 2012 were exempt from paying taxes at Indiana hotels and restaurants, according to an Indiana Department of Revenue directive. That directive remains on the books for the 2018 Super Bowl.

In addition, the NFL uses its 501(c)(6) tax-exempt status to avoid paying taxes on fuel, auto rental and admissions. Indianapolis and New Orleans also have agreed not to charge NFL employees, including players in the Super Bowl, income tax, according to sources close to the league.

Minnesota lawmakers are balking at that provision.

“I can pretty much say with certainty that we’re not going to provide income tax breaks for salaries to be a part of this,” Minnesota House Speaker Paul Thissen told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “I don’t think there’s any appetite for that.”

Minnesota officials are emphasizing the nearly $500 million in tax money going toward the Vikings’ new stadium, much like Indianapolis did to bring the 2012 game to Lucas Oil Stadium.

But Minneapolis has shortcomings. Its bid listed only 180 hotels with 19,000 rooms and boasted hosting national events that included the 2008 Republican National Convention and 2008 U.S. Women’s Open Golf Championship, this summer’s Major League Baseball All-Star game and the 2016 Ryder Cup.

That’s nothing to sneeze at, but Indianapolis’ list of sporting events is much longer—including the 2012 Super Bowl, myriad NCAA men’s and women’s Final Fours, Big Ten football and basketball championships, and multiple national and international events.

Metro Indianapolis has 33,646 hotel rooms, including 7,182 downtown, although that is still fewer than New Orleans has, especially in the four- and five-star categories.

But hotels might not be the most crucial factor.

“I know the way these guys think,” Steeg said. “These NFL owners remember the good and bad experiences when it comes to the Super Bowl. And Indianapolis was a good experience in 2012. One of the best ever.”

The next three Super Bowls will be in Glendale, Ariz.; San Francisco; and Houston.•


  • Come on
    This IS a great city, and we owe a lot of that to our sports entities. I remember downtown before the Colts arrived. Yikes. Sure, we have issues just like other cities, but don't blame the Super Bowl! The economic impact is real (read the study carefully), as are the legacy projects that will be here to our benefit for a long time to come.
  • On point!
    Garland, I did look it up - fits perfectly - hahahahahaha
  • Solipsistic. Look It Up.
    My point exactly Marie. Irony is, for all the jock sniffers in this town, it's a terrible sports town but then the whole fair-weather fan mentality of this burgh fits with its fervor and rabid zeal to take it up the shorts so just to get a super bowl. But the jock sniffers have the timid town cowed into thinking that sports is the only thing that will put Indianoplace on the map, so cowed we are. As for the $100 - $300 million in economic benefit the city likes to throw around, it's a flat out lie. A large percentage of the money they say comes into the city is actually generated from within the city (Indy is not a location super bowl, it's a "locals" super bowl. Most of the money comes from here to begin with). On top of that, of any money that does come into the market from out of town during a super bowl, more than 80% of it doesn't stay here - the money goes to the NFL, NFL vendors, chain hotels, chain restaurants and etc. That's a fact. We need to focus on those things that make a city great - the arts, infrastructure, education, safety, business headquarters, housing, cost of living - not superficial things like super bowls that only give the appearance of greatness. This can be a great city...we just have to stop the circle jerk sports town mythology and actually work to focus on those things that will really and truly put us on the map.
  • Whose priorities
    It is lopsided to put every dime into sports in this city. Look at our streets, our police and fire departments, the arts... I think sports are worthwhile of course but even if we get the Super Bowl our poor visitors will get swallowed up by potholes unless they drive through Democrat councilors' districts. Hopefully they won't get mugged, shot or harassed by the scam artists disguised as people in need.
  • Super Bowl economic benefit
    The CIB is a department of our city government, but IS NOT THE CITY, OR THE COMMUNITY. The economic impact of hosting a Super Bowl is hugely positive, over $100-300 million! The CIB's loss was nothing in comparison, and in doing so our city benefitted in the big picture in a BIG way!
  • NOT.
    Garland, SPOILER ALERT... This one link blows your argument out of the water. Sorry! http://archive.indystar.com/assets/pdf/BG192278719.PDF
  • Footnotes
    And you don't have to take my word for it: http://www.fieldofschemes.com/news/archives/2012/01/4800_indianapolis_to.html http://nextcity.org/daily/entry/urban-nation-money-wise-stadiums-and-super-bowls-dont-benefit-cities You'll also find a handful of articles substantiation our losses. We can look just as good hosting a Monday Night game for a lot less - and fix our roads and schools and support our cultural foundation as a real city just by saying no to the circle-jerkers pushing for another super bowl.
  • How's this for homework.
    http://www.wthr.com/story/18389145/indianapolis-loses-more-money-than-expected-hosting-super-bowl And it's not just Indy. Dallas lost money and New Orleans lost money the last time it hosted. The fact is, the projected earnings numbers reported do not reflect the fact that 84% of the revenues realized by a city during a super bowl actually leaves the city. Fact...there is little if any financial benefit to hosting a super bowl. And Indy lost money. We looked good on TV for one night so that a bunch of glad handers could pat themselves on the back for a week or so, but that was it. I did my homework. If you do yours - and if our city "leaders" do theirs – there will be no super drain on this city come 2018. Indy's game, while it looked good on TV, was generally considered a "locals" super bowl with most of the money that was spent there actually coming out of this area. We're not a destination and we never will be. Honest to goodness. There is no - no - fiscal argument for bringing this boondoggle back to the city. The city is spending more to attract - just attract - this idiocy than it spends in 150 years on the Indianapolis Symphony, which has gone from a world class ensemble to little better than a part-time community orchestra. We'd be much better off supporting them and other core cultural, educational and infrastructure initiatives that actually contribute to the stature of this city than blowing all this money on a super bowl boondoggle that is nothing more than a high end party for a very small number of people.
  • WHAT??
    Garland, please do your homework before making a blanket contrarian statement. Thanks.
    • Solipsistic Self-Aggrandizement.
      The only conceivable reason so much will be spent on so little to benefit so few. Have you driven down Westfield Blvd. lately? Do it. Then tell me this city needs to spend one red cent on yet another super boondoggle that does nothing more than ameliorate this town's massive inferiority complex. There is no rational reason to spend this much on so little - especially since, by every measure, hosting the game costs us more than we could ever conceivably hope to make. Super Bowls LOSE money...and that is in cities that are better destinations for the game. Let it go. And put the money into our roads, education, the arts...you know, stuff that really matters when it comes to putting Indy on the map.

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    1. You are correct that Obamacare requires health insurance policies to include richer benefits and protects patients who get sick. That's what I was getting at when I wrote above, "That’s because Obamacare required insurers to take all customers, regardless of their health status, and also established a floor on how skimpy the benefits paid for by health plans could be." I think it's vital to know exactly how much the essential health benefits are costing over previous policies. Unless we know the cost of the law, we can't do a cost-benefit analysis. Taxes were raised in order to offset a 31% rise in health insurance premiums, an increase that paid for richer benefits. Are those richer benefits worth that much or not? That's the question we need to answer. This study at least gets us started on doing so.

    2. *5 employees per floor. Either way its ridiculous.

    3. Jim, thanks for always ready my stuff and providing thoughtful comments. I am sure that someone more familiar with research design and methods could take issue with Kowalski's study. I thought it was of considerable value, however, because so far we have been crediting Obamacare for all the gains in coverage and all price increases, neither of which is entirely fair. This is at least a rigorous attempt to sort things out. Maybe a quixotic attempt, but it's one of the first ones I've seen try to do it in a sophisticated way.

    4. In addition to rewriting history, the paper (or at least your summary of it) ignores that Obamacare policies now must provide "essential health benefits". Maybe Mr Wall has always been insured in a group plan but even group plans had holes you could drive a truck through, like the Colts defensive line last night. Individual plans were even worse. So, when you come up with a study that factors that in, let me know, otherwise the numbers are garbage.

    5. You guys are absolutely right: Cummins should build a massive 80-story high rise, and give each employee 5 floors. Or, I suppose they could always rent out the top floors if they wanted, since downtown office space is bursting at the seams (http://www.ibj.com/article?articleId=49481).