NFL borrows from Indy’s Super Bowl playbook

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The NFL is taking a play from Indianapolis’ 2012 Super Bowl Host Committee.

League officials said a Super Bowl Village like the one in downtown Indianapolis for this year's event will now be a requirement for future cities hosting the big game.

And that’s not all. The NFL also is telling host-city candidates that they’ll need some type of central attraction akin to Indianapolis’ massively popular zip line.

“We take this as a compliment that the NFL is trying to replicate what we’ve done,” said Indianapolis Super Bowl Host Committee CEO Allison Melangton. (Here's a video from IBJ's trip down the zip line; the story continues below.)

The next three cities to host the Super Bowl—New Orleans, New York and Phoenix—already have contacted Indianapolis host committee officials for advice and guidance.

“Although we’ve held this event many times before, Indianapolis broke a lot of ground and we’re learning many things from them,” said Jay Cicero, executive director of New Orleans’ host committee.

Frank Supovitz, NFL senior vice president of events, said the aim is to have “a zone where the Super Bowl lives.”

No longer, NFL officials added, will it be good enough to have scattered hot spots where Super Bowl parties, events and activities take place.

The central celebration area the NFL now wants should be a place that draws Super Bowl fans together and also be an ideal place for the league’s sponsors and partners to be showcased, Supovitz said.

The area between the Indiana Convention Center and Bankers Life Fieldhouse was closed to traffic in the days preceding this year's Super Bowl and set up as a village similar to those seen at recent Olympic Games.

More than 1.1 million people visited the downtown village along Georgia Street and Capitol Avenue during the week of the Feb. 5 Super Bowl, spilling into area stores, restaurants and bars and onto city streets where 70 musical acts and various other activities took place.

Indianapolis’ village setup was in stark contrast to most of the 45 preceding Super Bowls, where about the only place local fans and visitors would come together at one time in the host city was the stadium and surrounding parking lots on game day.

Local fans and visitors praised the various entertainment options in the Super Bowl Village, and sponsors such as Bud Light and Verizon raved about the significant exposure they got there.

NFL officials said Melangton’s previous experience working at Olympic Games along with host committee Chairman Mark Miles' experience working international tennis events as the ATP Tour CEO was key in bringing some key new elements to this year’s Super Bowl.

Melangton isn’t surprised the NFL wants to copy some of Indianapolis’ ideas, but said credit deserves to be spread around.

“I think we helped the NFL redefine what an urban Super Bowl can be,” Melangton said.

In addition to Miles, Melangton said key to coming up with and executing the idea of the Super Bowl village were Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick, Indiana Sports Corp. executive Susan Baughman, Ratio Architects Inc. CEO Bill Browne, Pacers Sports & Entertainment Chief Operating Officer Rick Fuson, Innovative Edit President Conrad Piccirillo, Linger Group Productions Inc. CEO Terry Lingner and Shiel Sexton CEO Mike Dilts.

“All these folks are big thinkers and pushed the discussions to make the plan for the village all that it could be,” Melangton said, adding that Swarbrick was especially instrumental in “pushing us on our thinking.”

Once the group developed the village plan in late 2007 and early 2008, Dilts and Fuson, along with Bingham McHale partner Sue Beesley, were charged with executing the plan. Shiel Sexton loaned the host committee an employee, Shawn Hitchcock, for two years to build the village piece by piece.

Melangton said there are two reasons it won’t be easy for other host cities to replicate Indianapolis’ Super Bowl Village. First, Melangton said, the layout of cities like New York, Dallas and Miami could make it difficult to create “a center of energy.”

But Melangton thinks other host cities may have a bigger challenge.

“We are very fortunate here that we have a lot of people here who have been to a lot of big events, have a lot of diversified experience and a lot of great ideas,” Melangton said. “We have a collection of people who are really innovative thinkers that I think is going to be difficult to replicate.”


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