CHRIS KATTERJOHN Commentary: How about a Frozen Four in Indy?

June 11, 2007

Many city leaders are looking for the next big sporting event to fill the void left by our failed attempt to land the 2011 Super Bowl.

How about the Frozen Four in 2013?

For the uninitiated, the Frozen Four is the hockey equivalent of the NCAA Final Four in basketball. It ain't no Super Bowl, to be sure, but the Frozen Four is an event that's come into its own.

The last bid package to host the tournament drew a couple dozen proposals. It is booked through 2012 and regularly sells out 20,000-seat venues with rabid hockey fans from all over the country.

Two months ago, Michigan State University beat Boston College to take the 2007 title in front of 21,000 fans at a sold-out Scottrade Center in St. Louis. Next year, the tourney moves to the Pepsi Center in Denver (capacity: 18,000).

Could we do it here in Indy? Would we want to?

The answer to both questions is "yes," but before we examine the idea further, let's give credit where credit is due.

After I wrote a hockey-related column six weeks ago, reader Mark Barnhart e-mailed, suggesting Indy would be a perfect site for the event and that the University of Notre Dame could play host.

He informed me that Notre Dame has a "superb" hockey program and, in fact, is considered a contender for the title next year.

In fact, the 2006-2007 season was the best in the 39-year history of Irish hockey. With a 32-7-3 overall record, the team won its league's title and league tournament, and collected its first NCAA tournament victory before being eliminated.

Head Coach Jeff Jackson was named Division I coach of the year by three college-hockey Web sites, and Irish senior goalie David Brown won as many accolades as the nation's No. 1 college goal tender.

It appears the Irish are on a roll.

Notre Dame's senior associate athletic director, John Heisler, said the school would certainly take a look at playing host if the city of Indianapolis put together a bid. Far-fetched? Not really. When the 1999 Frozen Four was played in Anaheim, Calif., the host school was the University of Alaska in Anchorage, according to Tom Jacobs, director of championships at the NCAA.

But a school doesn't even have to play host. Jacobs pointed out that a conference also can fill that role, as did College Hockey America-based near Minneapolis-for this year's tourney in St. Louis.

Indiana Sports Corp. board member Jack Swarbrick said his organization has considered the Frozen Four in the past and would definitely consider it again as long as the city can meet the bid specs, the event could fit into the existing schedule, and it would serve the NCAA.

The only real hurdle for our city might be the venue. Jacobs said the minimum capacity for hosting the Frozen Four is 15,000. Pepsi Coliseum holds only about 8,200, and Conseco Fieldhouse in its hockey configuration has 13,500 full-view seats (including suites), and 17,200 total.

What about the 63,000-seat Lucas Oil Stadium? That's not as crazy as it sounds, either. The 2010 Frozen Four is being played at the 65,000-seat Ford Field, the domed home of the NFL's Detroit Lions.

It's the first test of the hockey championships at such a venue, Jacobs said, and he's hoping to sell it out.

Jacobs said there are other factors that could help Indianapolis.

First, the event has such a national following, its success isn't dependent on local attendance. Second, the NCAA is looking at cities that aren't hotbeds for collegiate hockey so it can spread the word, to wit Milwaukee; St. Louis; Washington, D.C.; and Tampa in recent and coming years.

The bid package for the 2013 Frozen Four will go out in the fall of 2008, with a deadline of April 2009 and a decision soon after. As a newly minted hockey fan, I'd like to see if we can make it happen.

If not 2013, then somewhere down the road.

Katterjohn is publisher of IBJ.To comment on this column, go to IBJ Forum at www.ibj.comor send e-mail to ckatterjohn@ibj.com.
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