Will city be ready for Super Bowl blitz?

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Super Bowl numbersDALLAS—The compact nature of downtown Indianapolis—long seen as a major draw for conventions and other events—is creating challenges for organizers of next year’s Super Bowl.

Members of Indianapolis’ 2012 Super Bowl host committee spent the first few days of this month taking in Super Bowl goings-on in Dallas, playing more the part of sleuth than fan. Among their assignments: getting a feel for the myriad social activities—both sanctioned and unsanctioned—surrounding the big game.

Local officials came away realizing the immense job they have ahead of them in planning accomodations for traffic flow, parking and security in such a small downtown.

“The compactness of our city makes this a very unique situation,” said Mike Bates, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department deputy chief in charge of homeland security, who went to Dallas for the Super Bowl. “It could be a really good thing or an absolute curse.”

And that could make or break the city’s efforts to use the Super Bowl as a marketing tool in hopes of boosting its tourism and convention business and attracting corporate headquarters.

While there’s an obvious upside to having a 5,000-strong global media contingency and 150,000 people descending on the city, Bates has concerns about congestion for visitors and locals alike.

“We have to keep this city flowing,” he said. “It’s imperative to get everybody safely where they need to go, and that’s going to be a really big job the week of the Super Bowl.”

Bates expects portions of South and Georgia streets to be closed, along with segments of Capitol Avenue. But the NFL is likely to request other street closings for the week of the big game, too, and that information won’t be known for some time.

“Right now, we’re kind of shooting in the dark,” Bates said.

The harsh winter weather that gripped much of the nation last week also has heightened concerns for the snow- and ice-removal plan in Indianapolis—one of the few northern cities to host a Super Bowl. Downtown’s size also compounds that challenge, league officials said, given the concentration of traffic.

Indianapolis’ host committee members said they realize a big part of putting the city in a position to secure another Super Bowl will depend on how they manage security, traffic and the winter weather.

Winter armada readying

In addition to spending millions of dollars to replace 80 percent of the city’s snow-removal fleet in the last three years, local Department of Public Works officials have lined up 500 volunteers to hand-shovel downtown streets, sidewalks and parking lots if necessary.

The city also has made arrangements to have vacuum trucks suck up snow and transport it to lots in the 1700 block of West Street so no parking spaces are lost under mounds of snow.

And city officials recently signed up 400 new snow-removal contractors—for a total of 500—and are talking to an Ohio firm about deploying its large-scale portable snow and ice melting unit, which could help turn frozen precipitation into water that can be pushed out of the city via the sewer system.

“We’re very, very prepared,” said DPW Director David Sherman. “Short of a major natural disaster, I don’t think weather will have an impact on the Super Bowl. I’m confident we’re more prepared to handle the winter weather than the vast majority of cities.”

Undercover in Big D

Indeed, security could pose a bigger challenge than weather, given the abundance of both high-profile and top-secret parties that often draw celebrities to a Super Bowl city.

The National Football League and host committee each are planning five gatherings of their own, but organizers also are expecting about 120 other events ranging in size from 50 to 5,000 attendees.

Indianapolis host committee members spent last week embedded in security and hospitality departments in Dallas, scouring NFL-sanctioned and underground parties, trying to figure out who was going, how they were getting invited, and who was in charge of planning.

Melangton-Allison-mug Melangton

“We know that, come the Monday after Super Bowl Sunday, these event planners are going to turn their eyes toward Indianapolis to start planning for next year’s Super Bowl,” said Allison Melangton, 2012 Super Bowl Host Committee CEO. “We need to know where they’re going to book these events, how many people are going, and what kind of crowd we’re talking about.”

Melangton, who has worked at a number of major international sporting events, from the Final Four to the Olympic Games, said there is no challenge greater than hosting the Super Bowl.

“The Super Bowl is much, much bigger than the Final Four,” she warned. “And you simply don’t have the amount of entertaining at the Olympics that you have at the Super Bowl. I mean, P. Diddy and Jordin Sparks don’t throw parties at the Olympics.”

Super Bowl factsDallas’ host committee built a database of Super Bowl events and event planners that is proving valuable to Indianapolis Super Bowl organizers. It’s the first time such a database has been built, NFL officials said.

“We decided we had to get our arms around this,” said Tony Fay, vice president for the North Texas Super Bowl Host Committee. “We’ve had to really keep our ears to the ground and listen not only to social media and things on the Web, but keep in tune to the grapevine and every other form of communication we can to monitor these events.”

Other host cities, including Miami, New Orleans and Detroit, have taken a hands-off approach to unsanctioned Super Bowl events.

“They just let what happens, happen,” Melangton said. “We didn’t feel, due to the size of our city and the way we’re operating things, that was the way to go.”

In addition to searching out event organizers in Dallas, Melangton and her staff are reaching out to entertainment agents from Hollywood to New York in hopes of finding out the plans of some of the regular movers, shakers and stars who attend these Super Bowl mega-events.

Melangton’s posse also is making a plea to Indianapolis hotels, conference centers and party facilities not to book any events without first contacting the local host committee.

“We’re not trying to interfere with their event,” she said. “But with such a compact downtown, we have to make sure we have adequate accommodations. It’s essential to make sure everything runs smoothly.”

Indy ‘100-percent unique’

Melangton quickly has made a name for herself in Super Bowl circles. Last week in Dallas, officials from New York—which is hosting the game in 2014—met at length with the former Indiana Sports Corp. executive to tap her expertise on hosting an urban Super Bowl and working with the unsanctioned party planners.

The varied nature of the unofficial events—hosted by a variety of celebrities and media outlets, from former NFL quarterback Jim McMahon to rapper Sean “P. Diddy” Combs and Playboy magazine—make them especially challenging.

“You never know what kind of crowd you’re going to get,” IMPD’s Bates said.

Indianapolis is only the third city to concentrate most Super Bowl events in an urban area. And the others—Detroit and New Orleans—have larger areas within or near their downtowns.

“We’re 100-percent unique in the compactness of our downtown,” Melangton said.

Lucas Oil Stadium is hardly more than a football field away from the Indiana Convention Center and numerous restaurants, ballrooms and other hangouts expected to host NFL-sanctioned and non-sanctioned events.

Dallas and perennial Super Bowl host Miami are far more sprawling cities, giving party and event planners an opportunity to spread out. The football stadiums in those locales also are more than 15 miles from downtown, further scattering activities.

And although areas like the Indiana State Fairgrounds and Keystone at the Crossing are expected to be busy with events next year, Melangton said the majority of party planners will flock to the tightly knit downtown area, where many upscale hotels and sought-after restaurants are located.

Piecing together the puzzle

While there are still many unknown elements of the 2012 Super Bowl, some are becoming clearer.

After recent site inspections, the NFL determined the new JW Marriott hotel would host the media and house the massive media center.

The AFC Championship team will stay at University Place Hotel on IUPUI’s campus, and the NFC Championship team will stay at the Marriott Hotel. The headquarters for NFL brass will be the Westin Hotel, next door.

The local host committee will hold a party for the media at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway pagoda and adjoining areas.

To help with transportation, the host committee is arranging to bring in dozens of buses to combine with the local fleet for a total of 300-plus buses, which will be staged at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Several groups also are looking to host parties at the fairgrounds, including a large beach party, possible at the Pepsi Coliseum or West Pavilion.

The NFL Experience, which is expected to draw 300,000 football fans, media members and NFL corporate sponsors, will occupy the entire first floor of the Indiana Convention Center.

“You have to remember, Miami has done 10 Super Bowls and New Orleans has done seven,” Melangton said. “This is all new for us. We’ve hosted a lot more sporting events than a city like Dallas, but we’ve still never done a Super Bowl, so there’s a lot to get our arms around.

“It’s like a big puzzle,” Melangton said. “And the pieces are starting to fall into place.”•


  • hoosier means hillbilly
    I am not originally from Indiana, but I am from the Midwest. After moving here, I've had tremendous culture shock (as I continue to have on a daily basis). The poster is correct; the cultural attitudes here are provincial. Even the local news will make everything "relatable" by taking a national story (that takes place outside of Indianapolis) and finding someone's cousin's-brother's-uncle who went to Purdue for a semester and had some connection to the national story! People here wrongly view the world as “Indiana is the center of the world, normal people are like this everywhere” and all events must "relate" back to Indiana. I’ve seen local news stories use this provincial angle in both national stories as well as international stories. Amazingly small-minded! Having lived in different parts of the country, I've never seen/heard anything like it!
    Additionally, as a female, I've found the population here to be quite sexist towards females. Keep in mind that I live 15 minutes from the international airport here in Indianapolis, and not long ago my neighbor confided in me that her husband had ‘laid down the law’ by insisting to her "I'm the head of the household!" Another one of my neighbors frankly told me one day, "If a black family moved into the neighborhood, I'd move out." Yet another neighbor (not kidding) told me that the reason that her husband drove a pick-up truck to and from work is because it made him "feel like a man". It is not uncommon to actually see people driving their pick-up trucks in town with metal testicles hanging from the tailgate (not kidding). Indianapolis is a cultural hell hole. If you like pick-up trucks, sexism, ethnocentrism, provincial local newscasts, a society that prioritizes above all else football and nascar, guns, babies, celebrating war/soldiers, and not giving a crap about your neighbor: then come on over to Indianapolis! Again, NOT kidding, not making fun, this is how it actually is here! Which leads me to another point about the local culture: people EASILY take offense when these things (which are honest observations of how people actually behave) are pointed out. People here take their hillbilly-ness VERY seriously. Finally, when people from Indiana insist that hoosier does not mean hillbilly, they are completely incorrect--that is a total myth. In Indiana, as it is true everywhere else in the world, hoosier does indeed mean exactly the same thing that the word hillbilly means. Stop kidding yourself if you think otherwise (especially as you crack open a cold-one, drive around in your pick-up listening to Dwight Yolkam on your way to nascar). So superbowl 2012 fans: welcome to the hillbilly state!!! Enjoy your stay in 1962, because culturally that is about where Indianapolis is at!!!
    Lol, I do credit you for living up to your screen name because you have been a source of humor (probably unintentional on your part).

    The only person who has been "trolling" on this website has been you. You have been acting like a 10-year old child throwing out silly taunts about a city you apparently don't like living in. So, you don't like living here--we get it, fine. Then why waste time posting here?

    Furthermore, as I posted earlier, it would seem that if you are unhappy here, then you should either move back to New York, or else figure out a way to make the most of living here--I think most people would consider that a reasonable course of action to take.

    The only "poor reception" I have received has been from you since I haven't fallen into the trap of name-calling or being childish. I have simply responded to you with reason.

    Now, remind me again how you explain that Indianapolis is supposedly so not worth your time, yet you seem to have endless amounts of time to post comments on the Indianapolis Business Journal? I don't know many New Yorkers who even read the IBJ, let alone spend time getting into discussions/debates on the IBJ message board.

    Again, I politely offer my reasonable suggestion to you that if you are unhappy here, then either apply for a transfer or a new job in New York (where you claim to be from), or work on building a life in Indianapolis for however long you are residing in the city. Posting silly comments about how you don't like the place doesn't do much to resolve your problem.

  • Response to caliboy28
    There are plenty of similarities between Indianapolis and Dayton: the high crime, twangy accents, strong suburbs with a terrible inner city, lack of identity, etc.

    To Chris, stop trolling. Your attempts at baiting have not been well received.
    • Well...
      To anyone pointing out the fact that the Indy MSA ranks "only" 33rd, you have to also consider that, just like Indianapolis' area is very large compared to some cities, some cities have much larger MSA areas, further distorting perception.

      That said, I have no doubt that Indianapolis will do a TERRIFIC job hosting the Super Bowl. The annual Indy 500 and Brickyard 400 are, afterall, the two largest single day sporting events in the world and we did also host a VERY successful Pan Am Games at a time when much of what we celebrate about our city didn't even yet exist!

      To LOL, you come across as an immature child. That you would even compare Indianapolis to Dayton only speaks to your ignorance, as the two cities are really quite unlike.
    • I Think You Misconstrued My Comments
      Actually, the next smallest metro area behind Indianapolis is Austin, TX, which most people would consider a sizeable metro area. More importantly, my response to you had nothing to do with my being upset or thinking you were "bashing" anything, I simply was informing you that I only mentioned the city's population as a counter response to a silly comment made by another poster.

      In any event, I am glad the city is being methodical with the Super Bowl planning, and I think Indianapolis will be a great host for the event, which is the point being made by this article.

    • Super Bowl 2012
      Just me personally, I don't see the point anymore bemoaning the city's disadvantages in hosting the Super Bowl compared to other cities simply because there's no turning back now: we're hosting the Super Bowl whether people want us to or not! I'd rather try to imagine what unique logistical problems Indy will have to overcome in order to host the Super Bowl successfully and suppose solutions. Which is exactly what the Super Bowl committee will be doing too! With lots of planning, I think they have a good shot of either doing just fine or exceeding expectations.

      As for previous posters commenting about Indy's lack of culture, I'm originally from Chicago. I moved here 6 years ago for a job. I still love Chicago, but I can see lots of positives about Indianapolis. I know for a fact that Indianapolis has plenty of culture because I've experienced it! I'll just mention a few activities - maybe someone reading these comments will learn something new about the city! Google any of the following if you want to learn more: Wine tastings at Goose the Market butchery; Indianapolis Recycling Coalition's annual exhibition and silent auction in May; indoor and outdoor movie screenings at the IMA art museum; annual event Art vs Art hosted by non-profit Primary Colours; live shows at the small music venues Earth House Collective in the Lockerbie neighborhood, the Vogue and Locals Only in Broad Ripple, and Radio Radio in Fountain Square. Indianapolis citizens, enjoy! :D
    • No...
      Okay, my point was, in terms of total population of our metro area, we are only 33rd. Most people I know talk in terms of a metro area... so, yes we are smaller than most think. And, in my opinion, 33rd is small... great we beat Anchorage, woohoo... still 32 other metro areas ahead of us. I love Indianapolis... was born and raised here, but I also like to be a little more realistic.
      Don't get your shorts in a bunch... I'm not bashing Indy, just stating the facts. And I hope the Super Bowl goes over well here... it will be great for our city.
      • LOL, You Seem To Have The Problem, No One Else
        LOL, nowhere in my remarks did I suggest that Indianapolis could or should compete with New York City, or any other city for that matter. The issue is not about competing, although, you seem to be trying very hard to make this discussion into something to do with competition among cities.

        Every city is unique, and every city should play to its own strengths, rather than trying to be a cheap knock-off of another place. Imitiations never are as good as the original, and money and time spent trying to imitate other places is time and money wasted.

        There is nothing to be "realistic" about. The fact that Indianapolis is not New York (nor should it try to be) does not prevent Indianapolis from being a good host for the Super Bowl. Your silly comments about the Indianapolis, just point up that you are unhappy. I suppose you are trying to bait others into some sort of nasty back and forth so you can boost your own ego, but not only is that rather sad, it is also a waste of your own time and energy.

        Frankly, all the posting you have done so far, has involved nothing more than your own personal drama. Again, the subject is the Super Bowl, not "LOL is Unhappy With His Job."

        I get you are unhappy living in Indianapolis. The question is what are you going to do about it? (1) Either decide you are moving back to New York City, and start today taking whatever concrete steps you need to take to transfer back or get a new job in New York, or (2) Accept the fact that you are going to be living in Indianapolis for awhile, and stop whining, and start getting out there and engaging in activities and making friends. You claim to be a New Yorker, so start acting one. None of the New Yorkers I know would waste time whining, they would just get busy doing.

        Sitting around feeling sorry for yourself is not an option, but if you think it is one for you, then stop wasting space on this message board, and wallow in your own self-pity privately.

      • Struck a nerve
        I'm glad that you take pride in your hometown. But we have to be realistic about the situation, though, and the reality is that Indy cannot even compete with the likes of second tier cities, LET ALONE New York City, in any appreciable aspect. The facts speak for themselves. Indianapolis is essentially a redneck Detroit, with no culture and a better downtown.

        Indiana is the Mississippi of the Midwest for good reason. When guests catch a glimpse of the rotting single-story shacks that line both sides of Interstate 70 from the airport to that monstrosity of a stadium, they'll be counting down the minutes when they can finally board their return flights out of town.
        • can't wait for superbowl
          Chris, I couldn't agree with you more in your response to LOL. My friends and I were just discussing this weekend how much more depth there is to Indianapolis than people initially realize. Obviously there's not as much to do as NYC, but it's pretty pointless to compare Indy to NYC. For the size city that Indy is and the amount of people per capita, there is a respectable and diverse selection of restaurants, museums, galleries, music venues (small and large) etc etc. As long as they work out how people will get downtown for the Superbowl (i.e. like someone suggested, having shuttles from parking lots outside downtown) then I think it's gonna be a great event in our city. I can't wait until next year.
        • White River State Park
          Yes, I am growing concerned about the people who work at WRSP venues and even the gov't center; how will we get in and out of work on those congested days, with streets potentially closed, parking garages full, etc.? 5000 media people will not fit into Marriott's garage, and that's not even counting the other visitors...
          LOL, my mom was born and bred in NYC, and I have several family members in the NY metro area. NYC is a great city, but I don't see how your being from NYC should either give you such a provincial attitude (although, I have to admit, I have certainly seen that same small-minded attitude from other New Yorkers before). Furthermore, I haven't really heard you explain why Indianapolis is not a good place to be, except for a few generalizations and nonsense unsupported assertions. That said, if you are unhappy in Indianapolis, then apply for a new job and move back to NYC. There is no forcefield keeping you in Indianapolis.

          Indianapolis has all the big city amenities, such as the opera, symphony, museums, restaurants, art galleries, nightclubs, parks, etc. If you are bored, then you are a boring person. I have to say, for a New Yorker, you are kind of acting like a wuss. Instead of whining, and making silly comparisons to Dayton (a much smaller city, by the way), you should get out there and make the most of where you are. Start doing things and start making friends. Or, be miserable, if you would prefer--it's no skin off my nose.

          Life is what you make of it, and apparently, you have chosen to make your life unhappy. Too bad for you.

          Now, back to the Super Bowl...
        • Indy Guy, What's Your Point
          Indy Guy, I am well aware of the metro's ranking. But, cities vary widely with respect to their square mileage, so it really doesn't matter how large the actually square mileage or city may be. The population of a city is the population. For example, the City of Los Angeles covers a far larger geographic area (and I know its metro area is very large), than Indianapolis, but we don't sit around and discuss that LA somehow should be smaller than Chicago, except for the size of its metropolitan limits. The issue is not population density, but population. Phoenix is another city (which though it does have a larger metro area than Indianapolis) would still be a much smaller city in national rankings, if it didn't cover so much square mileage (much larger than the area covered by Indianapolis). But, who cares? Phoenix is ranked how it is ranked according to its population, and there is no adjustment for its geographic size.

          Finally, my comment was in response to LOL's remark about the city being a "small town backwater," and even the 33rd largest metropolitan area (out of hundreds) does not qualify as a "small town" under any definition.

          Now, back to the Super Bowl.
        • GRD LOCK
          The traffic will be a gridlock mess in downtown. Do hope there will be perimeter lots with shuttle bus circulatory service. By the way you did not have to mention your a native New Yorker, we can read the nasty New Yorker between your lines.

        • Not as large as you think
          Indy may be the 13th largest city in the U.S., but that's only because of how much area the City of Indianapolis covers. If you look at the metro area population (which would include Carmel, Greenwood, and the other suburbs), the Metro area is only 33rd largest. A big drop there when you speak in terms of the metro area. So, we're not as large as some people think.
          • Stick with what works.
            The NFL should just rotate the Super Bowl among Miami, New Orleans, Phoenix, and San Diego. Then add Los Angeles when they build their new stadium. Let the professionals handle it.
          • Response

            I am a native of New York City, and have lived in Indy for the last seven months for work. Believe me when I tell you that if I ever have an opportunity for a transfer, I'd be on the first flight back to the City in a heartbeat. Compared to even Dallas, Indy is a backwater.

            There definitely is a small-town mentality here which manifests itself through the city's inability to develop functional mass transit, invest in cultural offerings, strong central neighborhoods, etc. And just like real small towns, locals here generally have no ambition to be anything in life, and people just love the status quo and hate any kind of change.

            I really wish it wasn't true, but as an outsider, it's quite humorous to see how delusional people in the Midwest can be. You see, Indy wants all of the benefits that big time cities have (exposure, large events, etc) without putting forth any effort to actually be a big time city. That's why it's extremely suburban, family oriented, and also struggles with brain drain and has issues attracting young talent.

            The visitor's bureau should adopt a new motto..."Indianapolis: Indiana's Answer to Dayton"
            • Lol, Your Post Begs The Question....
              Lol, your post begs the question that if you think Indianapolis is a boring, provincial, small town backwater (which, of course, is factually wrong since the city is the 13th largest in the nation), then why do you live in the Indianapolis area? Or, if you don't live in the area, then why would you waste your time reading the Indianapolis Business Journal and posting comments on stories about Indianapolis?

              Obviously, the NFL had faith that Indianapolis would make a great Super Bowl host city, or another city would have been selected to host. It is not as if there was a lack of alternative host cities to choose from. Indianapolis has a solid reputation for being a great host for sports events, and I am sure the city will host a fantastic Super Bowl.
            • public transportation comparison
              New Orleans, Detroit, Dallas, Jacksonville all have no real public transportations systems either, so that is not going to put Indianapolis behind other cities from that perspective.
            • Jeez
              To the third poster, the difference is that Indianapolis EXPECTS the snow and weather issue. Dallas? Not so much, though they also had snow during the NBA All-star game last year.

              The issue with transpo will be tougher to solve because the city does not have adequate public transportation. If they can figure out a way to deal with proper traffic flow, it *should* be OK. Aside from weather, traffic seems to be the biggest issue, logistically.

              And the first poster: It's not like the city has never hosted international events before, so if they haven't shown that "Indianapolis will finally get to show the world how much of a conservative, boring, provincial, small town backwater it really is" than the people who agree to have these events in said city obviously did not get the memo.

              Hell, if Jacksonville and Detroit can host a SB, Indy totally can.
              • Wow
                I can't wait for this time next year. Indianapolis will finally get to show the world how much of a conservative, boring, provincial, small town backwater it really is. No mass transit, cold weather, incompetent leadership, and nothing to do equals Super Bowl disaster.
                • One solution
                  As to the problem of congestion downtown, wouldn't it be great if we had a superb mass transit system so we wouldn't need to have so many cars downtown? I'm not kidding myself that we could have a system in place in one year, but here's one idea I think the mayor and IndyGo should consider: for the week of the Super Bowl, quintuple the IndyGo budget. Run dozens more busses through downtown for that weekend. Set up park-and-rides around the city with direct-to-downtown busses for residents. This would decrease somewhat the number of cars downtown, leave our streets available for busses, visitors, and pedestrians, and wouldn't cost anywhere near as much as a full long-term mass transit plan.
                • What about the Indianapolis 500?
                  I am glad that they are being so thorough in their planning efforts but we do host an ANNUAL event that attracts many more people than the super bowl.

                  Concerning the snow, it's going to be funny next year when Indy has the same weather that dallas did this year.

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