Indy's Super effort bowling over NFL and national media

January 30, 2012
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It seems like a lifetime ago. It wasn’t really.

It was 2007 when Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay walked down the hallway at the Colts Complex and blurted out “We’re going for the Super Bowl in 2011.”

I wasn’t even there to talk to Irsay. I was there to interview Tom Zupancic, then Colts vice president of sales and marketing.

But I’ve been a journalist long enough to know news when I see or hear it. Yes, the idea of Indianapolis hosting a Super Bowl had been bandied about since the replacement to the RCA Dome had become a reality. The NFL’s top brass had even hinted at the possibility.

But Irsay’s proclamation made it real.

An effort led by then Capital Improvement Board President Fred Glass, Jack Swarbrick and others fell painfully short in 2007 despite raising $25 million to host the game before the bid was submitted.

Dallas beat out Indianapolis by a narrow 17-15 margin despite having promised to generate more than $20 million more than Indianapolis in its bid.

The loss cast doubt on Indianapolis’ chances to ever host a Super Bowl.

Undaunted, a local group went to Atlanta in 2008 and, after much debate among owners, won the vote—if not the confidence—of  the NFL owners.

Some eleventh hour lobbying was needed by Indy's host committee to seal the deal. And some of the promises the local host committee made seemed far-fetched.

When NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced Indianapolis had won the bid, it all seemed a little surreal. Jubilation erupted among the local contingent in Atlanta that May.

After a weekend of attendance records and innovations in Indianapolis’ opening Super Bowl Village weekend, it’s difficult to understand what all the trepidation was about in the first place.

But trepidation there was. It wasn’t until Colts Senior Vice President Pete Ward flashed a quick and covert thumbs up after exiting the fourth voting among the 32 owners that it was certain the Super Bowl was coming to Indy.

Local host committee members were as jubilant as little children, but not everyone shared their joy. There were still a number of doubters about Indy’s ability to pull off a successful Super Bowl.

Many of the complaints against Indianapolis were the same old refrain; cold weather, small city, insufficient resources.

The vibe in the media room wasn’t all that great either. Yes, many had been to the Circle City to cover Final Fours and the NFL Combine. But if given the choice between going to Indianapolis, New Orleans or Miami in February, the choice seemed obvious to the dozens of national football writers gathered for the annual owners meeting in 2008 in the swanky Buckhead area of Atlanta.

Oh how things change.

In the four days since Indianapolis’ Super Bowl Village has opened, we’ve heard a lot more about the record number of people to come through the NFL Experience (42,238 on Saturday) and a lot less about the relatively small Super Bowl crowd Lucas Oil Stadium will hold.

We’re hearing more about Hoosier hospitality, the city’s new airport and the city’s efficient layout than the chilly weather and the city’s relatively small size.

The national media has been the first to jump on the bandwagon, raving about the drive time from the airport to the hotel and the media hotel to both AFC and NFC player hotels. Media member after media member are amazed you can actually walk to the stadium from the media hotel, the JW Marriott. In Dallas it was a bus drive of more than 30 minutes.

Media members also raved about the hand-written notes from kids greeting them in their hotel rooms, the greeters at the airport and other little niceties they don’t often see on the road.

CNBC’s Darren Rovell predicted Indianapolis would be the best Super Bowl host city ever. New York Times sports writer Judy Battista raved about the hospitality here and the notes she received from school children upon arrival.

ESPN’s Colin Cowherd called the Indianapolis International Airport today the best he’s ever been in.

It seems like a very long time ago since Indianapolis was passed over for the 2011 Super Bowl. Longer still since Indianapolis leaders made the bold move of building the Hoosier Dome with no prospects of landing an NFL team and then made its first big splash with the 1982 National Sports Festival and 1987 Pan Am Games.

It’s still galling to those of us who have called this place home for a long time that national media members call Lucas Oil Stadium “The House that Peyton Built.”

Thousands upon thousands of people built this place and made this effort. It goes back to the days when Dick Lugar and Bill Hudnut served as mayors in the 1970s.

The groundwork was laid when there were countless disbelievers in Indy’s effort to be a true major-league city, when the idea of Indiana-NO-place hosting a Super Bowl seemed utterly laughable.

Now, much of that laughter has stopped as it's game on in Indy.


 

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  • Indy made the state proud
    While I initially thought Indy was not up to the task, weather and so on...and while I would hate to be a player and have to play in cold weather stadium. At least, we are not detroit. I have heard from many that have ties to the NFL that many thought it was by far one of the best to host the big game in recent years.
    Good Job Guys, let's do it again soon with the Bears though

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  1. By Mr. Lee's own admission, he basically ran pro-bono ads on the billboard. Paying advertisers didn't want ads on a controversial, ugly billboard that turned off customers. At least one of Mr. Lee's free advertisers dropped out early because they found that Mr. Lee's advertising was having negative impact. So Mr. Lee is disingenous to say the city now owes him for lost revenue. Mr. Lee quickly realized his monstrosity had a dim future and is trying to get the city to bail him out. And that's why the billboard came down so quickly.

  2. Merchants Square is back. The small strip center to the south of 116th is 100% leased, McAlister’s is doing well in the outlot building. The former O’Charleys is leased but is going through permitting with the State and the town of Carmel. Mac Grill is closing all of their Indy locations (not just Merchants) and this will allow for a new restaurant concept to backfill both of their locations. As for the north side of 116th a new dinner movie theater and brewery is under construction to fill most of the vacancy left by Hobby Lobby and Old Navy.

  3. Yes it does have an ethics commission which enforce the law which prohibits 12 specific items. google it

  4. Thanks for reading and replying. If you want to see the differentiation for research, speaking and consulting, check out the spreadsheet I linked to at the bottom of the post; it is broken out exactly that way. I can only include so much detail in a blog post before it becomes something other than a blog post.

  5. 1. There is no allegation of corruption, Marty, to imply otherwise if false. 2. Is the "State Rule" a law? I suspect not. 3. Is Mr. Woodruff obligated via an employment agreement (contractual obligation) to not work with the engineering firm? 4. In many states a right to earn a living will trump non-competes and other contractual obligations, does Mr. Woodruff's personal right to earn a living trump any contractual obligations that might or might not be out there. 5. Lawyers in state government routinely go work for law firms they were formally working with in their regulatory actions. You can see a steady stream to firms like B&D from state government. It would be interesting for IBJ to do a review of current lawyers and find out how their past decisions affected the law firms clients. Since there is a buffer between regulated company and the regulator working for a law firm technically is not in violation of ethics but you have to wonder if decisions were made in favor of certain firms and quid pro quo jobs resulted. Start with the DOI in this review. Very interesting.

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