Super Bowl XLVI: hometown affair without hometown team

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Stats about Super Bowl souvenir sales say a lot about this year's festivities in Indianapolis.

New York Giants gear outsold New England Patriots apparel by a factor of eight at more than a dozen shops operated by locally based MainGate Inc.

But the top seller by a mile, outselling the Super Bowl teams combined: Indianapolis-specific gear, sold primarily to Hoosiers. MainGate's sales at shops at Greenwood Park and Castleton Square malls were more than 100 percent ahead of expectations, outperforming even downtown outposts.

This was a hometown Super Bowl even though there would be no hometown team on the field.

"There are Colts jerseys everywhere," New Yorker Doug Cifu said to no one in particular Sunday morning as he walked around Monument Circle with his wife, Melissa, son Daniel and daughter Rachel.

The Giants fans were impressed with the turnout of locals and described the festivities as "very well organized."

Super Bowl merchandise sales in Indianapolis this week are “at least 20 percent ahead of projections,” MainGate CEO Dave Moroknek said. MainGate is selling everything from $1,200 NFL-monogrammed handbags to more mundane $25 T-shirts and $30 sweatshirts.

“We’ve all been surprised by the turnout of Hoosiers supporting this event,” Moroknek said. “Not only have they come out in force, they’ve been active buyers, and the proof is in our sales numbers.”

Moroknek wouldn’t say how much revenue MainGate brought in from Super Bowl business this week, but sports business experts expect more than $15 million in Super Bowl merchandise to be sold in Indianapolis, representing about 10 percent of total Super Bowl spending here.

Davis Meyer, a Chicago-based businessman who has sold goods at the last 11 Super Bowls, thinks early sales estimates may be off—in a good way.

“My sales this year are 35 percent better than they were last year and better than at any Super Bowl in the last decade,” Meyer said. “Part of that is the way the city set up its downtown, but I’ve also sold just a ton of stuff to locals who have no intention of going to the game but are coming down here to enjoy the atmosphere.”

Scott Walters, a Fedex aircraft maintenance technician, parked at IUPUI on Sunday and walked for several miles all around downtown, just to take it all in. It was his fourth trip to do nothing more than to soak up the Super Bowl atmosphere.

"You gotta come down and see it all," said Walters, 43, who sported a Peyton Manning jersey. "The whole downtown might as well be Super Bowl Village."

Meyer said items with Indianapolis’ name on it were among his best sellers.

Bob Tenbarge, 51, is one of the Hoosiers who came downtown, traveling from Evansville with his wife, Dava, 44, and their 18-year-old daughter Devon. They arrived Thursday and are staying through Sunday night.

“Are you kidding me? This is maybe a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Tenbarge said. “We’ve spent a lot of time just hanging out at the Circle and in the Super Bowl Village taking it all in.”

Tenbarge’s 19-year-old son, Weston, a sophomore at IUPUI, has been to the Super Bowl Village every night since it opened Jan. 27.

“I went to the Jimmy Fallon show, the Carrie Underwood and Steven Tyler concert and everything else I could,” Weston Tenbarge said. “It’s like a huge party every night in your own backyard. How can you not go?”

The only problem the Tenbarges had was while trying to attend the LMFAO concert on Friday night.

“The crowd was too much,” Bob Tenbarge said. “I had to put my daughter in front of me. I thought she might get trampled. But everything else has been awesome.”

None of the Tenbarges will be going to the game. They thought the experience was so worthwhile, they pulled their daughter out of school for two days to enjoy the festivities.

Greg Alexander, who lives about 14 miles north of Louisville, came up early Sunday morning with his girlfriend, Karen Weber. They were lucky enough to score two tickets to the game.

Alexander is a Colts fan, but he wasn’t about to miss this Super Bowl.

“Come on, this is in my home state,” he said. “How often do you get to see that?”

When Alexander goes to Colts games, he usually arrives a little less than two hours before kickoff. On Sunday, he arrived 10 hours ahead of gametime.

The first thing he did was buy a $25 Super Bowl sweatshirt with Indianapolis played up prominently.

‘I’m not a fan of either of these teams; I’m a fan of this city and state,” Alexander said. “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like Indiana.”

Employees at Indianapolis Colts Grille tried to make Patriots fans feel welcome this morning, but few ventured in. Its customers were mostly Colts and Giants supporters.

A request for Pats fans to cheer was greeted by a quick chorus of boos, said waitress Hannah Gerber.

On Monument Circle, Indianapolis residents James and Karen Railing brought their Newfoundland dog Moses to mingle with the throng of people Sunday.

They take him to nursing homes to provide therapy for the elderly and also to Colts home games to put a smile on fans’ faces. Moses, decked out in a Colts scarf, was headed home well before the game started.

So was Sam King and his four children, all playing violins on the Circle. The two boys and two girls, ranging in age from 7 to 12, weren’t profiting from their musical skills, however, like several others in the area.

Instead, the Heritage Christian School students were raising money for a mission trip to help the homeless in Milwaukee. They traveled downtown four times to play and had done well, their dad said, although he declined to say how much they had raised.


IBJ reporter Scott Olson contributed to this story.

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