INDIANAPOLIS HAS: Seating for up to 73,000 and a retractable roof at Lucas Oil Stadium, set to open in 2008. The press box seats 200, but event space could be converted for additional media use.
NFL WANTS: Comparable practice facilities for both Super Bowl teams, including a covered field with the same turf as the stadium, locker rooms for players and coaches, meeting rooms, and laundry service.
INDIANAPOLIS HAS: The Colts’ 56th Street football complex. Bid organizers have been mum about options for the second practice field.
NFL WANTS: No specific requirements, but venues where the average February temperature is below 50 degrees aren’t chosen as often as warmer options. INDIANAPOLIS HAS: Average high of 39 degrees and less than 3 inches of precipitation.
NFL WANTS: Sufficient airline flights and ground transportation to accommodate more than 100,000 fans expected to visit the host city for Super Bowl festivities. INDIANAPOLIS HAS: About 15,000 seats on 177 daily flights into Indianapolis International Airport during February; about 750 licensed limos and taxis, with potential to import more.
NFL WANTS: 150,000-square-foot facility for a 6,000-guest party hosted by the league commissioner, plus evidence that host city can accommodate a bevy of other private functions. INDIANAPOLIS HAS: Nearly 100 venues have agreed to clear their schedules for the week leading up to the 2011 Super Bowl. A specific site for the commissioner’s party has not been disclosed.
Sources: IBJ research, NFL
NFL WANTS: 25,500 “quality” hotel rooms within an hour of the stadium.
INDIANAPOLIS HAS: 34,150 qualified rooms within 60 miles, including nearly 7,000 downtown.
City boosters have spent months lining up hotel rooms and party venues, drafting plans to handle transportation and traffic, raising awareness along with the $25 million they think it will take to stage the 2011 Super Bowl.
Their goal: to put together a knock’em-dead bid that shows Indianapolis could be home to the greatest spectacle in football. In the end, though, whether the city wins the lucrative event could come down to two things organizers have little control over-weather and NFL politics.
Team owners cast the 32 votes that determine who gets the estimated $250 million boost that comes with hosting the big game and related events. And their decision doesn’t have much to do with hotel rooms and transportation plans.
“In my history, they never really asked many questions about that stuff,” said Jim Steeg, the league’s Super Bowl guru for more than two decades and now the San Diego Chargers’ chief operating officer. “They don’t really understand it. Nor should they.”
That’s the role of the NFL staff, which evaluates the technical aspects of bids and works to make sure the event could be staged in whichever city the owners choose. Three candidates are vying for their vote this year: Indianapolis, Dallas and Glendale, Ariz.
And the warm-weather competition brings the other wild card to the table.
“Indianapolis definitely has the facilities, the capability to host it,” said Robert Tuchman, president of New York City-based hospitality firm TSE Sports & Entertainment. “But it isn’t a destination like Miami, San Diego or New Orleans. Are people going to want to go to Indianapolis in February?”
Organizers of the local bid acknowledge the challenges, but they’re focusing on the factors they can influence. And they are optimistic the experience Indianapolis offers will sway the owners when they vote May 22.
“We have a very compelling story, which we tell well in our bid and our presentation,” said Fred Glass, a partner at Baker & Daniels who is leading the Indianapolis 2011 effort. “All the things we can control are going great.”
Specifics of the written bid and 15-minute multimedia extravaganza, to be delivered just before the vote, are being kept under wraps to avoid giving the competition any insight. But there’s little doubt they address a host of NFL requirements-and then some.
A copy of a draft bid prepared by Jacksonville, Fla., in 2000 illustrates the kind of details the league asks potential host cities to provide, from the electrical capacity of the stadium to plans for airport welcome centers.
One item likely is missing from Indianapolis’ bid, though: information on greens fees and other costs at three 18-hole golf courses requested for Super Bowlrelated events.
“We told the NFL they can have full run of all the golf courses in central Indiana,” Glass said, smiling at the thought of such an outing in February.
In all seriousness, the NFL asks for a lot and observers said the requirements are only getting more extensive with time. Socalled “enhancements” offered by past host cities to sweeten the pot are now standard, raising the bar for Indianapolis and others.
When Detroit hosted the game in 2006, for example, it had to secure space for the NFL’s sponsor-laden corporate tailgate party but wasn’t required to foot the bill. Would-be host cities now must agree to cover that expense.
“We provided all the transportation for the teams, the hotels for the teams. Those were enhancements,” said Detroit host committee chief Susan Sherer. “Now, they’re part of a host city’s responsibilities.”
Exactly how Indianapolis responded to such requests remains to be seen; Glass expects the bid to be publicly released after the vote, regardless of the outcome. But observers in Indianapolis and elsewhere agree that the city shouldn’t have much trouble giving the NFL what it wants, one way or another.
“When you look at Indianapolis’ ability to handle the game, from an event-management standpoint, it’s a slam dunk,” said Lee A. Esckilsen, an associate professor at Rhode Island-based Johnson & Wales University’s Center for Sports, Recreation and Event Management. “The other two cities can’t even come close.”
Esckilsen, who received his master’s degree in sports management at Indiana University in 1982, cited the success of the Indianapolis 500 each year and the city’s status as a regular home to the NCAA’s Final Four basketball championship as proof of Indianapolis’ capabilities.
Super Bowl Village
Indeed, the city’s experience with other large events is a distinct advantage when it comes to lining up nuts-and-bolts bid components like hotel rooms.
The NFL’s hotel requirements vary from city to city-the minimum number is equal to 35 percent of the maximum stadium capacity; in Indianapolis’ case, that means identifying 25,500 “quality” rooms within an hour’s drive of the game.
No problem, said Todd Greenwood, a group marketing manager at the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association. By 2011, the city will have nearly 7,000 top-tier rooms downtown and 22,455 in the metropolitan area. Factor in nearby locations like Bloomington, Columbus, Lafayette, Muncie and Terre Haute, and the number surpasses 34,000.
“You can be in Lafayette in less than an hour,” Greenwood said. “In Miami [site of the 2007 game], you could drive an hour and only go 14 or 15 miles.”
To be part of the NFL block, hotels had to guarantee availability and allow the league to set room rates, which will include a 10-percent Super Bowl premium, which the hotels will keep, and a 15-percent surcharge shared by the host committee and the NFL.
“Hats off to our state and the way our industry works here,” Greenwood said. “We put the rooms together with only two formal meetings.”
Glass and others point to the large downtown hotel block as an ace in the hole for Indianapolis. If planned hotel construction proceeds as expected, Indianapolis will have more than 4,500 rooms physically connected to the convention center/stadium complex. And the nearby bars, restaurants and even museums should eliminate some potential traffic and transportation challenges.
“This downtown was literally built to host events,” said Glass, also president of the county’s Capital Improvement Board. “Our No. 1 advantage is the vibrancy and urgency that is downtown. … The Mile Square could become Super Bowl Village.”
Indianapolis’ competitors for the 2011 game can’t say the same thing. Both Dallas and Arizona are making regional bids, a necessity since their stadiums aren’t in major cities. The Cowboys’ new stadium is going up 20 miles away in Arlington, Texas. The Cardinals play in Glendale, 10 miles outside Phoenix.
Lucas Oil Stadium’s urban location isn’t its only advantage. Set to open in 2008, the retractable-roof venue still will be one of the league’s newest stadiums when the 2011 game is played.
Because it’s being built to accommodate a multitude of functions, it has amenities the NFL wants, like extra locker rooms and ample event space.
Another plus for Indianapolis is its massive volunteer base that regularly helps with major events like the Final Four. Glass said the host committee likely would need 6,000 to 8,000 volunteers for the Super Bowl.
Bring on the tents
Glass is quick to downplay weather as a factor, pointing out that Indianapolis is used to handling snow or ice-as it did when 5 inches of snow fell the day of the AFC Championship this year. As he and others like to say, at least we know it won’t rain on the field like it did in Miami.
“Let’s put this in context,” he said. “Yes, it’s cold here in February. But it’s not International Falls, Minn. The average high is 39 degrees and we average 6-1/2 days when it is over 50 degrees.”
Even so, the weather does create other challenges. The NFL requires host cities to provide two comparable practice facilities for the Super Bowl teams; because our average temperature is less than 50 degrees, both must be enclosed.
Same goes for the 750,000-square-foot NFL Experience interactive theme park. And the 800,000-square-foot Tailgate Party. And the 150,000-square-foot venue where the commissioner will hold his Friday night party.
City boosters are undeterred.
“We can be creative,” said Indianapolis event planner Maribeth Smith, whose namesake firm has organized some of the city’s largest events. “We could tent Pan Am Plaza, turn the ice skating rinks into event space. We could tent entire streets, tent the Circle. Something this large requires us to think outside of the box, and we can do that.”