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We got game-what's next?: Super Bowl may require 10 times the personnel of Final Four

May 26, 2008

While landing another Super Bowl may be a long shot, local leaders clearly intend to show what Indianapolis is capable of accomplishing.

"Our perspective is that this is a one-shot deal," said local attorney Jack Swarbrick, who was part of a small contingency that traveled to Atlanta last week for the bid presentation to NFL owners. "But if we do this, and we do it well, the world will know we can do anything. If you're thinking of Indianapolis hosting your event or convention, there's no doubt we can handle it in a firstclass way. Now we have to get down to making this happen."

In its bid, Indianapolis touted its experience hosting the NCAA's Final Four, the annual college basketball extravaganza. But a Super Bowl exists on a completely different playing field. While a typical Final Four requires a local organizing committee of about 150 members, for example, ISC President Susan Williams expects the Super Bowl committee to be three or four times as large.

Local leaders also promised National Football League team owners they'd provide as many as 20,000 volunteers and paid staff to put on the event tentatively scheduled for Feb. 5, 2012-far more than the 1,500 to 2,000 required for the Final Four.

"This will be much larger because of the components involved," Williams said. "The legacy component and village will have design and construction issues, and that requires more people. We also plan to host parties and events like this city has never seen here before."

Indianapolis' bid committee made a number of big promises to the 32 NFL team owners. Now it has to deliver.

For instance, local officials promised to raise attendance at the NFL Experience, the league-owned fan attraction at every Super Bowl, by at least 100,000. Attendance at this year's Super Bowl in Glendale, Ariz., was 220,000.

They also promised not only enough bus and taxi cab drivers to handle the 250,000 visitors expected to converge on the Super Bowl city, but also vowed to provide drivers who were experienced in snow and ice in case there is a winter storm. Some will be recruited from outside the area.

A major part of the bid was the so-called NFL "legacy" project, which calls for spurring redevelopment on the city's blighted near-east side by building a $9 million indoor training facility at Arsenal Tech High School. Organizers hope that investment prompts a multimillion-dollar revamp of the surrounding area, which is at least twice the size of Fall Creek Place.

Bid organizers also promised to clear not just one, but two weeks and weekends in February 2012 to accommodate the league's uncertain regular-season schedule. NFL officials have discussed expanding the regular season from 16 to 17 games.

They also promised to turn downtown into an NFL Village and create a party atmosphere like none before it.

To live up to the expectations they created, local leaders know they will have to pull together an unprecedented number of experts and service providers from Indiana and beyond.

Indeed, the city must have everything aligned, hospitality experts said, to maximize the local economic impact, which economists said could be $300 million to $400 million.

"The city has to make sure the hotels and restaurants are all ready, as well as countless other elements, some that have already been thought of, others that probably haven't yet been considered," said Robert Tuchman, president of TSE Sports & Entertainment, a New York-based sports hospitality firm that has had operations at every Super Bowl for more than a decade.

Local leaders already have been in communication with local hotel, restaurant and hospitality operators for months, Swarbrick said, adding, "We realize this will absorb every resource the community has."

Williams said 5,000 volunteer recruits are already locked and loaded, with more pouring in daily. Local leaders have set up a Web site, www.our2012SB.com, for interested volunteers, and Williams said about 500 people signed up in the 24 hours after Indianapolis won the bid.

"They'll need all hands on deck," said Marc Ganis, president of Chicago-based sports business consultancy Sportscorp Ltd., which counts several NFL teams as clients. "The Super Bowl is an order of magnitude greater than the Final Four. Trust me, it's a significant difference."

And the demands of Super Bowl visitors are far different from those of Final Four fans.

"The crowd is much more corporate and expects a much higher-class experience," Tuchman said. "I think Indianapolis will be the perfect host, but they have their work cut out for them. You'd think there's plenty of time, but there's so much to do."

Local officials already have discussed forming a separate-possibly even incorporated-entity to run the Super Bowl, much like Pax Indianapolis was formed to run the 1987 Pan American Games held here.

"Remember, Pax Indianapolis eventually had a staff of several hundred people working on the Pan Am Games full time," said Milton Thompson, who was a pillar in the Pan Am Games organization and is now on the local Super Bowl advisory committee. "I would expect a similar operation would be needed for the Super Bowl. Right now, they're working on putting together a paid staff."

While no one has been identified to lead the group or be on the staff, Thompson said there's no lack of capable candidates here. He also said he expects several sponsors to donate members of their paid executive staffs to be part of the Super Bowl operations team.

"It's part of a move to support their community, but that way, they also have their investments looked after," Thompson said.

And Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said he expects members of his team to be heavily involved in the work going forward.

"We're getting it worked out what our roles will be, but there's one thing for sure: We will be involved," Irsay said.

While the efforts have begun to pull together staffing and raise another $8 million or so in addition to the $25 million already pledged to stage the event, Swarbrick and Miles said they expect to throw execution efforts into overdrive early next year.

This year, local organizers will complete the detailed operations manual that was started as part of the bid process.

"There was a general level of superstition about planning how we were going to do this before we got the bid," ISC's Williams said. "Now it's time to get going. We have a lot to learn. But there's no lack of confidence that we're going to maximize this opportunity for everyone involved."
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