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SPORTS Bill Benner: Likely results of a 2012 bid: Success or cruelty

May 28, 2007

Indianapolis was no less a great sports city the afternoon of May 22 than it was the morning of May 22.

Without question, among most (but not all) of our citizenry, the disappointment of not being awarded the 2011 Super Bowl was profound, especially so for those who put all their heart, soul, creative energy and tiring effort into crafting the bid.

And for those who have never liked Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones even a little bit-yes, that's my arm raised in the air-listening to his acceptance remarks on behalf of the North Texas contingent was no less than fingernails across the blackboard.

Like when he congratulated "In-duhnap-lis."

But, as with many things-particularly in professional sports and especially in the NFL-the trail of success was easy to chart.

Just follow the money.

Indy knew going in it was at a serious disadvantage with regard to stadium size. The Cowboys' new playpen can seat 100,000. We can stretch Lucas Oil Stadium to 73,000.

That left a $23 million revenue gap between our bid and theirs.

So there, in a nutshell, you have it. Forget the weather theory-Dallas can have lousy, cold weather in February, too. I've been there when a "blue norther" comes sweeping down from the plains. Suffice it to say Dallas can provide ice for all those cocktails-just stick that Bloody Mary out the window and fill 'er up.

Hotels were a wash. They've got more rooms, but they're farther away. We've got more within walking distance. Same with places to party.

Indy's superiority in convenience simply couldn't overcome cold, hard cash. And even with the dollar disparity, the final vote was oh-so-close, reportedly 17-15.

I take that to mean our quest for the Super Bowl shouldn't end and I hope in the coming days, maybe even by the time you read this, you will hear of a renewed effort to stay in the chase.

Yes, those directly involved need to step back, catch their breath, get some sleep, and recharge their batteries.

But we don't need to give up.

Indianapolis is a Super Bowl-worthy city. That hasn't changed.

Plus, I believe the NFL and its owners owe us one. When a community-a region-makes the kind of commitment to the league this one has, a quid pro quo should be in order, as long as the city can meet all the other requirements, which Indianapolis clearly has demonstrated it can.

Which brings me to a sidebar. For the life of me, I don't know why the NFL forces cities to repeat the agonizing process when they are obviously qualified. Why couldn't the league or the owners say, "Look, we've got two great bids here from cities who have invested heavily in new stadiums; so let's give them both a Super Bowl."

The NCAA, for example, routinely awards three to four Final Fours during a "bid cycle."

So suppose Indy goes back next year with the same proposal again, blows 'em out of the water, but finishes second to another higher-dollar bid.

To say no again would seem cruel and unusual punishment, to both Colts owner Jim Irsay and the bid committee. I mean, at some point, you're either good enough or you're not. Indy is good enough. But back to my opening statement. This is a great sports city with or without the affirmation a Super Bowl would bring. Remember, the second-biggest sporting event in America that moves from city to city is the NCAA's Men's Final Four. We've got it. It's a lock: once every five years beginning in 2010 and extending through 2039. Same goes for the Women's Final Four, which is only getting bigger and bigger. And as I told folks the other day in the wake of the Super Bowl announcement, let's go console ourselves by hosting the largest single-day sporting event in the world, the Indianapolis 500. Or, in July, the secondlargest single-day sporting event in the world, the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard.

Understand, there are some locals who are pleased Indianapolis' bid was denied. They resent the stadium, the sports initiative, downtown development and everything associated with them. They are defined by their bitterness.

To the rest of us, finishing a close second in a three-horse race hurts, though finishing second in a 32-city derby doesn't seem quite so painful. That Indianapolis has put into place the pieces that make it a legitimate contender to host America's biggest sports extravaganza is a collective success if still a singular, in-the-moment failure-if that's what you choose to label a two-vote swing among 32 ballots.



Benner is associate director of communications for the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association and a former sports columnist for The Indianapolis Star. His column appears weekly.To comment on this column, go to IBJ Forum at www.ibj.comor send e-mail to bbenner@ibj.com. Benner also has a blog, www.indyinsights.com.
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