Super Celebration site turnout less than expected

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From Lafayette to Bloomington, communities within a reasonable driving distance of downtown Indianapolis hoped to cash in on Super Bowl visitor spending by offering football fans free bus service.

Many of those cities and even neighborhoods within Indianapolis say the sponsored shuttles saw plenty of riders, but they appeared to be more popular with local residents traveling to downtown Indianapolis than visitors venturing to the outlying communities.

As one of 20 designated Super Celebration sites, Shelbyville thought its Indiana Live casino would lure away some of the thousands of visitors who packed downtown Indianapolis last week, but the city received a boost from an unlikely source: the lowly Cleveland Browns, a team that finished last in its division with a 4-12 record.

As part of the overall Super Bowl celebration, 33 Indy race cars were dressed up in National Football League team colors and put on display at celebration sites as part of the effort to attract visitors. Shelbyville drew the Browns, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Word spread into nearby Ohio, prompting “a ton” of the team’s fans to make the trip to the town,” said Rachael Ackley, executive director of the Shelby County Tourism and Visitors Bureau.

“I know that was the main concept, to pull people from out of downtown [Indianapolis], but I had a lot of people from Cincinnati and Dayton getting on the bus to go downtown,” she said. “I have no problem with that.”

The free shuttle that ran to Shelbyville on Friday and Saturday had “less than expected” ridership, Ackley acknowledged. Knowing the casino wouldn’t appeal to families, she understood the limited interest.

“If we got 10 people, I thought it would be of benefit,” Ackley said. “To be honest, if you’re going to fly into Indianapolis, you’re going to want to see what’s going on downtown.”

To the north of Indianapolis, in Hamilton County, ridership on shuttles to and from Carmel, Noblesville and Fishers was strong, but suburban residents traveling downtown likely made up 75 percent of the ridership, said Karen Radcliffe, deputy director of the Hamilton County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

At the historic Fishers Train Center, where the Fishers Convention and Visitors Bureau is located, the Cincinnati Bengals Indy car attracted about 50 visitors a day. By comparison, the center might attract only four or five visitors on a typical day in February, she said.

“Rather than see the big numbers like downtown did, we saw pockets of great success, and our hotels were filled,” Radcliffe said. “We knew [the shuttles] were going to be heavily traveled with residents from the communities.”

Clay Terrace and the Palladium were featured stops in Carmel. In addition, shuttles traveled to Conner Prairie in Fishers and Hamilton Town Center in Noblesville.

Mini-shuttles taking visitors to restaurants along the 96th Street corridor were less busy, Radcliffe said. But eateries near hotels, such as Peterson’s Restaurant near Interstate 69, had its best week of sales ever, she noted.

“It’s not an impact like we would get from an event at Crooked Stick [Golf Club], because that happens right in our neighborhood,” Radcliffe said. “But absolutely, the Super Bowl was a great event for the north side of Indianapolis and Hamilton County.
Radcliffe also chaired the Super Celebration Sites Committee for the Super Bowl Host Committee and reported strong shuttle ridership in Greenwood and Plainfield.

The shuttle stopped at the Metropolis mall in Plainfield and moved about 1,500 people in two days, said Jaime Bohler Smith, associate director of the Hendricks County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Most of the Metropolis visitors came from Martinsville, Putnam County and even farther west in Terre Haute to catch a ride downtown, she said, which is what the local visitors bureau originally intended.

“Let them go downtown and experience the fun and let them come back and have their evening in Plainfield,” Bohler Smith said.

Neighborhoods within Indianapolis said they received fewer visitors than expected.

Massachusetts Avenue, Fountain Square and Broad Ripple all were Super Celebration sites and saw mixed results from their participation. Most restaurateurs attributed lower-than-expected sales to the unseasonably warm weather that kept most visitors downtown at or near Super Bowl Village.

The Sun King Brewery along North College Avenue was among those that prepared for an onslaught that never occurred. The brewery's 500-person tent hit capacity a few times thanks to loyal local patrons who turned out in force, Sun King spokesman Neal Taflinger said.

“If there can be a complaint about the whole Super Bowl experience, and I’m not sure there can be,” he said, “it’s that the Super Bowl Host Committee and the downtown [village] worked too well.”


  • Maybe next time
    The event planning was great, and obviously the city put on a great show, but it would be nice if this should happen again, or anything like it, if the city would have just a few events in other areas around the city so more businesses owners could profit. As it was, only a few really made money off of this event, unfortunately some business owners that had every right to believe they would see large crowds, spent money on extra inventory and employees and ended up losing money during the Superbowl. It's a shame. Small business is still the backbone of every city economy and should be supported.
    Griffine Sabine sounds like the chronic complainer

    Amen to Proudhoosier
    if anything this article shows that locals are up for the idea of riding buses from point A to point B if there is a destination.
  • Building a World Class City
    Griffin Sabine - I support your enthusiasm for the arts, but question your numbers. I follow a blog from Austin TX , where a dedicated F1 racetrack is being built for a race starting next year. The avid local backers are militant in their claims that this event alone will draw 120K raceday, 250k for three days, and contribute $300 mil in economic activity. I think even with lots of "free-spending" foreigners in town, we know from experience this is not so. So $500 mil (from a metro area of perhaps 2 mil) in largely discretionary spending sounds like alot. The benefit of events like the SB is to increase convention and out of state tourism, which will do much more to help support and expand cultural activities in a long term, sustainable manner. The building
    of the stadium and Convention Center is a
    piece of this strategy, which will pay dividends (and support the arts) for many years to come.

    • Indy is the real winner
      I would suggest everyone read this article instead of listening to these haters.

    • I want to see the figures
      I'd like to know the real bottom line. How much did hosting the Super Bowl cost the taxpayers, and how much profit was generated in the form of increased sales tax, hotel taxes and anything else that benefits all of us, not just those in the hospitality, restaurant and bar businesses. The citizens of Indianapolis were seriously inconvenienced by the Super Bowl being here, but how do we know whether it was worth it without specifics? I agree with those who say that giving ourselves a great big, expensive party isn't justified.
    • Amen
    • The Bigger Picture
      You can all squabble over who cashed in on the game and if you want to divide up the dollars and cents, have at it. However, consider that millions of people around the world just saw an incredible event play out on their televisions. They watch media members and celebrities praise our city. We're a city know for sports, but putting the media in our city for a week allowed a lot of other stories to be told. We'll be reaping dividends off this event for decades in the form of leisure travel, convention and meetings, business development, etc. I would urge you all to look at this from a macro level and you'll see an event that boosted our image and showed that when it comes to staging world-class events there is nobody who does it better.

      This was also a great time of civic pride. A lot of locals (suburbanites included) participated together in a great event and I am convinced that many now believe in their city like never before.
    • NFL and Taxes
      This is a little known fact...the NFL did not have to pay any taxes while they were here on anything they directly paid for from the NFL. So if they bought a gallon of gas they simply send in their receipt and get all the tax on a gallon of gas back. They also paid no Indiana State Sales Tax, Hotel Lodging Tax, etc. Now what a deal for the NFL to not have to pay tax while they are in our city.
    • The Arts Are More Important Than Football
      Our city is as defined by its arts organizations as it is by its sports teams. And the arts bring $500 million in revenue - PER YEAR - to Indiana. The Super Bowl is going to wind up returning nothing but fond memories...assuming that they were that fond. Do you know what Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Cleveland and Pittsburgh all have in common? They all have world class symphony orchestras (like we do), NONE have hosted a Super Bowl (NY gets a token game next year) and all are held in higher regard than Indianapolis as "real" cities. The Super Bowl was a useless exercise in self aggrandizement...a year-long circle jerk, basically (not counting the "hostesses" brought in by the NFLPA, of course).
    • Arts No, Sports Yes
      So the arts should have to self-sustaining but professional sports that entertain the and line the pockets of the rich and drain the taxpayers of their money should not. Right.
    • Not so
      We taxpayers have been footing the bill for this all along
    • Funds
      "The money that was spent on attracting the Super Bowl to Indianapolis and staging the event in Indianapolis was raised from private corporate donors and not taxpayer funds."

      Did the corporate donors receive tax write-offs for these donations? If they did then tax funds did go into the superbowl preparation. If not, then fair enough.
      • tax for nothing
        Its kind of a joke that we restaurants have to pay a stadium tax when we have to compete with food trucks and caterers ,not to mention concession stands in the stadium. It was a great party downtown but maybe the city should not invite all these food vendors to come in on these big occasions so that the restaurants who are paying for these places can make a decent wage.After all alot of promises were made that this would be a big event. I am also disgusted that I could not park for a whole week at the city market and get lunch. I'm sure the market people were not happy either. Why were not any of the festivities planned for the city market. From what I heard the locals squeezed out the visitors to the point where most didnt want to come out of their hotels.
      • bus rides
        We had a steady stream of people riding our bus from Zionsville to downtown, we did have a lot of locals ride but also had visitors.
      • Money Well Spent
        The money that was spent on attracting the Super Bowl to Indianapolis and staging the event in Indianapolis was raised from private corporate donors and not taxpayer funds. The idead that the money is better spent on the arts, education or mass transit is a bit off. Mass transit is a good idea, but one that does not work in Indianapolis. IndyGo is a unionized black hole of a money pit that continues to drain on all taxpayers. Education funds are raised through your property taxes and no property taxes were used on the Super Bowl experience. The arts should be a self-sustaining entity and should not be receiving any taxpayer money. What I may consider art you may not and vice versa, along with any religious or anti-religious artwork that would be funded by tax money to the arts is not a good idea - see ACLU. We did not spend $1 billion dollars on the stadium, but spent the money on an expanded convention center that included a stadium to keep the Colts here. Without the Colts, Pacers, Indians, etc., Indianapolis would return to a sleepy midwestern city on a downward slide. These sports entities are what attract people and businesses to Central Indiana. I do not want to return to the days of Naptown, which I grew up in. I prefer low taxes, but if we are going to spend the money, let's spend it on infrastructure I can either see, use or not see and use (sewers), than roll the time clock backwards 30+ years.
        • Complainer
          You sound like someone who doesn't travel anywhere
        • We Got Hosed
          These comments aren't coming from me, but from professionals who have worked dozens of Super Bowls over the years. Indy isn't a destination SuperBowl like Miami or New Orleans. A lot depends on the two teams that get there - if this had been the Packers/Steelers, Indy would still be counting the money (as would the tix brokers who made $4,000 per ticket last year as opposed to less than face value this year). Professional assessment is that, no, Boston and New York fans don't travel like Pittsburgh or Chicago or Green Bay fans. Bottom line, when you factor in the cost of the stadium, the cost to acquire the game in the first place (for which we paid 10 times more than Indy donates to the arts in a decade), the cost to prepare for the game - add it all up and know that more than 80% of all the money that does come in to the market goes right back out again (without a whole lot of "new" money coming in mind you...it was all locals all the time) and you've got one expensive party. Sure, the 30 Eastern Bloc "hostesses" that the NFL players association brought in to "entertain" its guests I'm sure made for a happy ending for DOZENS of corporate big whigs, but Indy was a big loser with this game. There are better places to spend our money, hot Eastern bloc hostesses or no!
        • pan am remember
          it was the same thing during Pan Am games. Vendors were all crying because they did not get the business that was promosed by the organizing committee. people stay and party where the action is. They didn't take this historical fact into planning because if they did they would have made the village wider and encompassed more of downtown, i.e up to market, down to south and from east to west streets. I loved it and it was great, just food for thought.
        • Boston and New York Don't Travel Well?
          A lot of out-of-towners rode charter flights that let them fly in Sunday morning and fly out after the game. They saved what they otherwise would have spent on hotels, food, and transportation. That probably adds up to more than the cost of the flight.
        • Too Early
          This was our first Super Bowl and no one knew exactly what to expect, so I'm sure there will be some learnings about a variety of things including, potentially, how to push more benefits into the outlying areas. I think, however, that very few people would agree with your pessimistic assessment that this Super Bowl was "a dog."
        • Locals
          The locals stayed away from BR, FS and MA during the Super Bowl stuff and the out of town Super Bowl crowds never materialized. They were too busy being entertained at parties, etc. and stayed right in the Super Bowl village area.

          Restaurants weren't the only places that saw little business last week.
        • It Was A "Locals" SuperBowl
          The one thing SuperBowl organizers didn't factor into their too-sunny outlooks was the potential for the two teams in the game to have fan bases that just don't travel well. But that's exactly what we got and the post mortem is supporting this. On-site ticket brokers reported tickets selling for face value on game day - unheard of (game day tix in Dallas were going for upwards of $4,000). Parking that was priced at $150/day was slashed to $20. All supporting one ticket broker's conclusion that this was a "locals" Super Bowl. In other words, as many of us predicted, we wasted a lot of money and time on throwing ourselves a party and slapping ourselves on the back. I would so have prefered those funds going into improving our mass transit or education or infrastructure or to the arts (which contribute $500 million a year to our economy). Instead, we blew close to a billion dollars (counting the stadium) to get what one local pub owner called "a dog" of a Super Bowl. I for one hope it never returns.

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          1. I never thought I'd see the day when a Republican Mayor would lead the charge in attempting to raise every tax we have to pay. Now it's income taxes and property taxes that Ballard wants to increase. And to pay for a pre-K program? Many studies have shown that pre-K offer no long-term educational benefits whatsoever. And Ballard is pitching it as a way of fighting crime? Who is he kidding? It's about government provided day care. It's a shame that we elected a Republican who has turned out to be a huge big spending, big taxing, big borrowing liberal Democrat.

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