City interested in hosting college football title game

Indiana Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said he feels good about Indianapolis’ chances of winning a bid to host the College Football Playoff Championship Game, should the city decide to pursue it.

Vaughn and ISC Vice President Susan Baughman attended the inaugural game Monday in Dallas to get a first-hand view of what it would take for Indianapolis to host the event. They shared their thoughts about the game Wednesday afternoon at a press conference.

This year marks the first year the Division 1-A college football national championship was determined by a four-team playoff. The new event has sparked interest from numerous potential host cities.

Glendale, Arizona, is set to host the title game in 2016 and Tampa, Florida, was picked as host in 2017. But 2018 and beyond is up for grabs.

In addition to Indianapolis, representatives from Atlanta, Minneapolis (which beat out Indianapolis for the 2018 Super Bowl), Jacksonville, Houston and San Antonio were in Dallas to scout the event.

Dallas-Fort Worth officials said they also are interested in bidding again for the event, which carries an estimated economic impact slightly higher than a men’s Final Four but about one-half to two-thirds of the impact from a Super Bowl, according to the Dallas-Fort Worth host committee.

Interested cities will receive bid specifications—expected to run 250 pages—in early February. Cities would need to submit their intent to bid by May. ISC officials said it would likely take at least 30 to 60 days to evaluate the bid specifications to determine if Indianapolis would compete for the event.

Organizers of the game are expected to make site visits to prospective host cities this summer. A decision on the next round of host cities would likely be announced sometime in the fall.

Vaughn said he's not concerned about the amount of competition.

“Of the cities there, we feel confident we could put on just as good a show, if not better, as anyone,” Vaughn said. “I’m confident we could put on a premier event.”

There are a number of factors that must be considered before deciding whether or not to bid, Vaughn said. Those factors include the cost of the bid, potential economic impact and any scheduling conflicts, including from potential Indianapolis Colts playoff games.

It’s not completely clear how much Dallas-Fort Worth spent in total to host the game, but a source close to the North Texas bid committee said the sanctioning fee alone is in the $3 million to $5 million range. The cities shelled out $10.7 million through their joint Texas Major Events Trust Fund, which is set up to collect visitor-related taxes and use them to host major sporting events.

Dallas-Fort Worth officials said those funds were used for the sanctioning fee and expenses that included rental of practice sites, public safety costs, ground transportation for the colleges and their conferences, and signs and banners. It is unclear if there were other expenses beyond what came out of the fund.

Dallas-Fort Worth is so much different than Indianapolis, it’s difficult to compare event costs.

“The scale in Dallas is much different than it is here,” he said. “Dallas, in part because it’s so spread out, isn’t the best place to compare apples to apples on cost.”

Unlike the model in Dallas-Fort Worth and some other host cities, Indianapolis relies more on corporate donors and less on tax dollars to pay for these types of events. Vaughn said he’d have to be convinced that there’s sufficient corporate support for an effort to host the game before deciding to bid on the game.

Careful consideration will have to be given regarding the economic impact. Dallas-Fort Worth estimated the economic impact of Monday’s game and the three-day run-up would be $308.6 million.

“Candidly that [estimate] seems a little high to me,” Vaughn said. “It was a fantastic event and did get great media exposure.”

Vaughn pointed out that 80 percent of the fans at the game pitting Ohio State University against the University of Oregon were Buckeye fans. Ohio State is known for its rabid football fan base and its propensity to travel to cheer for its team.

“We have to consider what if the teams involved were smaller schools or had smaller fan bases,” Vaughn said. “What would that do to the economic impact? There’s no guarantee who’s going to be playing.”

And, Vaughn added, the college football national championship is less corporate than the Super Bowl. Corporate parties and entertainment account for much of the economic impact at a Super Bowl, and without that guaranteed influx of cash, the college championship is more reliant on robust fan bases to pump money into the host city.

One of the first things that would be evaluated Vaughn said would be potential conflicts with Lucas Oil Stadium and the Indiana Convention Center. The exact date of future games won’t be known until the bids are examined.

“Indianapolis has a very busy schedule,” Vaughn said. “Timing is very critical.”

Visit Indy officials said they support the idea of going after the big game, but are letting ISC take the lead.

Having a Colts game and the national championship game in a 48-hour period wouldn't be a big problem, Lucas Oil Stadium Director Mike Fox said.

Other cities host college football bowl games and NFL games in that time frame, he said. Fox also noted that Lucas Oil Stadium hosted Notre Dame and Colts football games on the same weekend at the start of the 2014 season.

“This town is so good about working together, it’s one of the biggest assets we have. We would all work together to figure out what needs to be done,” Fox said. “We know [College Football Playoff Executive] Bill Hancock and his staff, so it’s no problem working with them.”

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