2012 Super Bowl, tainted or not, already paying off big

The 2012 Super Bowl is already starting to pay off for Indianapolis.

There’s one reason why the Big Ten chose Indianapolis to host its inaugural football championship game in 2011. By winning the bid for the NFL’s big game and having a game plan in deep development to deal with one of the nation’s biggest sporting events, Indianapolis was an easy choice to host the Big Ten title game.

Sure, Indy has hosted numerous NCAA Final Fours, the Big Ten men’s and women’s basketball tournaments and a bevy of big conventions. And we’ve dealt with the Indianapolis 500, Brickyard 400 and an international contingent from Formula One.

But the Super Bowl has taken this city to another level. Even before it’s come here. Just by winning the bid, Indianapolis has proven it has the faith of the nation’s most powerful sports league. That says something, and Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany took notice.

Hosting a big football game, with its massive tailgate parties and extensive corporate hospitality, is somewhat unique in the world of sports. And nowhere is the party bigger than the Super Bowl. If a city can handle that, it can probably handle just about any sporting event.

The cities that got a hard look for the Big Ten title game were Chicago (where the Big Ten headquarters is located), Detroit (which hosted the 2006 Super Bowl) and Indianapolis. Other cities, such as Columbus, Ohio; Minneapolis; and Green Bay lobbied for it, but in the end it wasn’t much of a contest.

There's one reason the Big Ten wants a title football game. It brings in big money for the conference and its member schools. With so much on the line, conference officials weren't about to trust this to just any city. It makes you wonder if the other cities competing against Indianapolis for these events feel a little like the IU football team heading into Happy Valley. Do they really have a chance against such a heavy favorite?

Now it seems, it’s Indianapolis’ game to lose. Delany only promised to have the title game in Lucas Oil Stadium for one year. But if Indianapolis does the kind of job it does for the Final Four, there’s little doubt it will be part of a short, permanent rotation.

Which means, Indianapolis will likely get at least a $10 million economic impact every three years. It could be a lot more. The Southeastern Conference title game boasts an economic impact two to three times what the Big Ten is projecting. I understand the Big Ten title game has some growing up to do to match the SEC title game.

The big payoff will come if the Big Ten is able to complete its expansion plan of growing to 14 or 16 teams. What that allows is a championship game of two teams who never met during the regular season.

Picture this, Nebraska and Ohio State meeting in the title game with a trip to the national championship game on the line. I think an economic impact of $20 million for a game like that would be conservative. Not to mention the marketing bounce the national television audience would bring.

You can argue all you want about the Super Bowl’s direct economic impact on the host city. Sports business experts peg it at anywhere from $200 million to $450 million. But it’s difficult to argue about the game’s long-lasting impact on this city.

Remember each event that comes here, not only pours money into hotels, restaurants, shops, our airport and on and on. It also raises a lot of public money through taxes on hotel rooms, taxi cab rides, meals out, rental cars and other sales taxes.

All this starts to make the $25 million investment to host the Super Bowl look pretty small.

With the looming labor fight between NFL owners and players threatening next season, I still wish Indianapolis was hosting the 2011 or 2013 Super Bowl. And I still think Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones pulled a fast one on Indianapolis.

But there’s no denying the payoff hosting the Super Bowl will have for Indianapolis.

In fact, the dividends are already starting to roll in. And there’s a promise of more—much more—on the horizon.

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