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SPORTS: City's Super Bowl score was decades in the making

May 26, 2008

Shoot, if I'd known city leaders were going to resurrect Dennis Hopper-Shooter, from my alltime favorite flick, "Hoosiers"- for the Super Bowl bid video, I would have suggested they also use Hickory High player Merle and paraphrase his memorable line: "Let's win it for all the smaller NFL-designated market areas that never had a chance to get here."

Yes, we are the nation's 13th-largest city. Thank you, UniGov. But in terms of market size, we're 26th or so.

Certainly not Hickory- (or Milan-) like, relatively speaking. Nonetheless, our Super Bowl victory was a triumph for any city that dares to dream bigger than it is and refuses to be bound by the perceptions of others.

That-if I may borrow the catch phrase of the late, great WIBC newsman Fred Heckman-is the essence of "my town Indy."

It has been my good fortune to witness, experience and chronicle for several generations of readership the metamorphosis and renaissance of my town Indy.

I have always thought that our town Indy is a pretty special place. I even felt that way 40 years ago when it wasn't. But I hoped and believed some day it could be.

On May 20, just days before hosting the annual super bowl of motorsports, we have been bestowed the honor-and the responsibility-of hosting the Super Bowl in 2012. Think of that: the world's largest single-day sporting event, the Indianapolis 500, which we welcome every year, and the biggest movable sportsfest of them all, the Super Bowl, four years hence.

But don't stop there. Consider the lineup that unfolds beginning next year. In addition to three mega-races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and that not-so-little gathering of 100,000 or so at O'Reilly Raceway Park for the NHRA Nationals, my town Indy will welcome the Big Ten basketball tournaments through 2012, an NCAA men's regional in 2009, the U.S. Senior Open golf tournament in 2009, the NCAA men's Final Four in 2010, the NCAA women's Final Four in 2011, the Super Bowl in 2012, the BMW Championship golf tournament in 2012, and the Coca-Cola Circle City Classic in each of those years.

I jotted down some numbers to place that in some kind of perspective. A conservative estimate of the attendance for those events: 4.1 million. That's million, with an "m."

And the conservative estimate of the economic impact of those events: $3 billion. That's billion, with a "b."

I'll stack those numbers up against any city in the country. Not bad, my town Indy.

And that doesn't include the Colts, Pacers, Indians, Fever, Indianapolis Tennis Championships and other events that might drop in from time to time over that span.

But our success story goes way beyond numbers and dollars. It's about vision and faith in that vision. It's about leadership that spans partisanship. It's about daring to be different, creative and innovative. It's about those local businesses that pitch in time and again. It's about trying to inspire our youth. It's about trying to engage and enhance our entire community and region. It's about our legendary volunteer force. It's about event and venue managers who are so skilled and competent that they are regarded as models of excellence throughout the country.

That winning Super Bowl bid? It wasn't two years in the making. It was 30 years in the making. It wasn't one or two people who made it happen. It was thousands, from city leaders to everyday folks who wore a volunteer shirt and a smile, and offered a helping hand.

You don't-can't-measure my town Indy's Super Bowl success by taking a snapshot, or by identifying an individual. It happened step by step, day by day, person by person, Republican by Democrat, vision by investment, plan by execution.

And what we are left with is simply amazing when viewed through the prism of that 30-year perspective. Just flat amazing.

Now that we have this Super Bowl, here is my prediction for what we're going to do with it: We're going to knock it out of the park. We're going to make all those who are convinced "cold-weather" Super Bowls can't work leave on the Monday following the game shaking their heads and saying, "Wow, that was such a great Super Bowl that they ought to bring another one there. And maybe another."

Because that's what we do in my town Indy. For the last 30 years. And for the next 30 and beyond.

We win it all for all the smaller demographic markets that couldn't get here.



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, send e-mail to bbenner@ibj.com. Benner also has a blog, www.indyinsights.com.
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