BENNER: Calling out some special people for a super effort

February 11, 2012

When Allison Melangton and I were colleagues at the Indiana Sports Corp., we would sometimes go into the Olympic Suite on the 12th floor of Pan Am Plaza and watch glorious winter sunrises unfold.

Even after we parted ways professionally, anytime I would see a beautiful sunrise, I would call and ask, “Did you see it?”

So it came to pass that, on the Friday before the Super Bowl, I was in my Pan Am office looking out my east-facing window at a full-on sensational sunrise over Indianapolis. I immediately text-messaged Melangton: “I don’t know where you are, but I hope you are catching this sunrise.”

The president and CEO of the Super Bowl Host Committee immediately responded, “I’m at the top of the zipline.”

And I thought to myself, how perfectly appropriate that, at this moment, this most extraordinary woman at this most extraordinary time in our city’s history was atop an eight-story perch that served as the launch point for a ride that had come to symbolize the free-spirited, all-out fun, wheeeeeee! atmosphere Indy had stamped upon America’s biggest sporting event.

Indeed, the zipline was like our Super Bowl effort itself. You had a long time to wait and prepare for it. That last climb up the stairs was arduous. You had to have faith that when you stepped off the platform into mid-air, the planning and execution would carry you. Then the ride itself was over in a blink.

But, oh, what an exhilarating ride it was.


The reviews were overwhelmingly positive. I will add just one to the mix. A longtime friend, Gary Shelton of the St. Petersburg Times, told me, “I came to Indianapolis prepared to hate it. Now I will tell you that Lillehammer should host every Winter Olympics, Sydney should host every Summer Olympics, and Indianapolis should host every Super Bowl.”

The positive vibes all come back to people. Our people. Friends and colleagues and those 8,000 giddy volunteers wearing scarves and smiles.

While at the Sports Corp, I always referred to Allison as “Mother Melangton” because of her ability to both worry about all of us and nurture all of us. If you had a good idea, she would be the first to say, “Go with it.” But she would also ask, “If you do this, have you thought about that?”

She’s covered more bases than Albert Pujols.

Another former ISC pal, Susan Baughman, spearheaded the effort to make the most recent Men’s Final Four in 2010 the benchmark for all that follow. No surprise, then, that the gathering of 1.1 million folks in the Village was such a resounding success. She coordinated it.

The NFL Experience shattered attendance records to the point that it became too much of a good thing, reminding me of the old Yogi Berra line, “That place is so crowded, no one goes there anymore.” Credit the marketing efforts of Brad Carlson for blowing that one out.

Connie Israel used to run the Goodwill Games … in Russia. Thus, for her and her colleague, Sheila Bradley, to so successfully lead the efforts of those 8,000 volunteers is maybe not that surprising. Heck, they all spoke English.

Melanie “Mel” Raines came to the Host Committee from Washington, D.C., where she had been working the logistics of this little event called the Republican National Convention. No problem, then, for her to flawlessly work with IMPD and other agencies to coordinate street closures and the load-in and load-out of equipment and staging.

“Have a Super Day?” Say hello to the ICVA’s Susie Townsend, who oversaw the Super Service efforts of the hospitality workers and volunteers.

And take a bow, Tony Mason, who left the Circle City Classic to oversee the multitude of community programs that touched, or will touch, thousands of lives. Ditto for the selfless James Taylor, coordinator of the Near Eastside Legacy Project and the transformation of a neighborhood.

There was the tireless Dianna Boyce, who led the communications efforts even if it required communicating by e-mail at 2 in the morning. Get some sleep, lady!

There is not enough space to mention all on the staff—including interns—who worked so hard and long. Many will be looking for jobs in the coming weeks. Do yourself a favor: Hire them. They’re superstars.

In the meantime, next time I witness another special sunrise, I will see all of them in it because, thanks to their efforts, a new day has dawned in Indianapolis.

Which also means it’s time to look for that next zipline and grab hold. I see many more “wheeeeeee” moments in our future.•


Benner is senior associate commissioner for external affairs for the Horizon League college athletic conference and a former sports columnist for The Indianapolis Star. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at bbenner@ibj.com. He also has a blog, www.indyinsights.com.


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