A Super Effort By Indianapolis

Over the years, I’ve come to consider Indianapolis as my adopted hometown. It’s only four hours away from Nashville and I’ve been visiting there since I was six years old; when I attended my first Indianapolis 500 in 1965. As an adult, I’ve been a frequent attendee of the Month of May for the race and qualifying weekends for the past twenty years or so – except for those dreadful IRL years from 1996 through 2002.

I even tried to move there in the mid-nineties. Back in my married days, my wife – who hailed from Philadelphia – absolutely hated living in the south. For years, she begged me to move to a northern city – any northern city. Naturally, I set my sights on Indianapolis. I was in the midst of an eight year run in pharmaceutical sales. I endured a grueling four-hour interview in Carmel for a promotion in Indianapolis. I didn’t get it and we stayed put in the south. A year and a half later, she bolted. She now lives in Atlanta, further south than me. Go figure.

I have traveled to Indianapolis enough to know the nice areas, the trendy areas and the areas to avoid. I know local restaurants – the touristy ones and the ones with true local flavor. Through this site, I’ve also developed some relationships with people I converse with throughout the year – on things other than racing, believe it or not.

Added to that is my connection to the city through former Tennessee Vol Peyton Manning. As he is the one that is single most responsible for Lucas Oil Stadium, he is also lauded as the one person most responsible for leading my Alma Mater back to an elite program after two decades of mediocrity. Although the Colts play in the same division with the Titans, I always find myself cheering for Peyton and the Colts for all but two games a year (except when their winning negatively impacts the Titans playoff chances). As with all Colts fans, it’s tough for me to see the University of Tennessee’s most famous son endure what he is currently going through.

All in all, I feel like I know the city of Indianapolis better than any city I’ve never lived in. That’s why I’ve been enjoying watching the great job that Indianapolis has done in hosting its first ever Super Bowl. In a way, I feel a sense of civic pride while reading and hearing all of the accolades that have been bestowed upon the Circle City.

By all accounts, the praise is well deserved. Make no mistake; they got a huge boost from the weatherman. Festivities around downtown have been helped with daytime temperatures in the sixties – beyond perfect for a northern city in early February. Had the city of Indianapolis been hosting the Super Bowl at this time last year, it would have been miserable. The match-up didn’t hurt either, as it featured a rematch of the classic Super Bowl of four years ago, when the Giants derailed the Patriots bid for a perfect season. Interest was also naturally high since it featured teams from two major markets that historically despise each other – Boston and New York.

Then, to top it all off – they got a great game. There were four lead changes topped off with another game-winning touchdown drive by Eli Manning, with fifty-seven seconds to go. There was no Tom Brady magic for the Patriots. Time ran out as the Giants won 21-17.

But had those factors not fallen into place, Indianapolis was still going to shine. This was only the third northern city to host a Super Bowl – Detroit and Minneapolis being the other two. As I recall, each of those cities had a few hiccups in their first attempt as well as snowy weather. Super Bowls held in southern markets Atlanta and Dallas featured bad weather and other non-weather related chaotic moments. Indianapolis steered clear of all of these problems.

The amount of planning that went into hosting Super Bowl XLVI cannot be overstated. This event was years in the making and the hard work paid off. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was quoted during the week as saying that Indianapolis had been such a positive experience that the city may find itself in the regular rotation along with Miami, New Orleans and Phoenix.

Don’t underestimate the role of Tony George in the early stages of landing the Super Bowl for Indianapolis. Although I don’t agree with the way he split open-wheel racing, I’ve never denied his passion for racing and his Indianapolis Motor Speedway. His family’s devotion to Indiana and the city of Indianapolis is also noteworthy. From what I understand, he was fairly heavily involved in the initial committee that worked to secure the Super Bowl held yesterday.

Whoever came up with the idea of using IndyCars, as a way to tie in a racing theme with the NFL should be given a medal. Throughout the city were old and used IndyCars painted in the colors of the thirty-two NFL teams. For the Giants and Patriots, their colors were represented on the new Dallara DW12. Supposedly, this was the first time that the NFL has allowed their logos to be featured with another sport. Apparently, this was a big hit. Will it garner any new fans? Possibly. It certainly gave many people that had never seen one an up close look at an IndyCar.

Also credit whoever had the idea to hold a media party at IMS one night last week. Many sportswriters, who may have no real interest in racing, probably came away with a whole new perception of the facility once they saw it. I don’t pretend to know who was responsible for these IndyCar tie-ins, but they deserve some recognition within the IndyCar ranks, now that the event is over.

It also happened to be a nice coincidence that this Super Bowl was on NBC, the network who just re-branded the network previously known as Versus. It provided a nice platform to showcase the aforementioned racing tie-in to the city that had done such a good job with the Super Bowl. It also helped to promote upcoming IZOD IndyCar Series races that would be appearing on the NBC Sports Network.

All in all, Indianapolis should be proud. They already had experience in handling large crowds. They leveraged that with a well-organized committee and a lot of hard work. They showcased the city quite nicely, and showed the world what we already knew – that “Naptown” is not the sleepy midwestern dwelling that everyone perceives it to be. Former IndyCar blogger and current PR person for Bryan Herta Autosport, Monica Hilton (aka The Race gIRL) said it best on Twitter yesterday morning: "As Indy welcomes you all today for SB46 please remember… hosting the world’s greatest event is what we do EVERY year". It certainly made me proud as an honorary adopted Hoosier.

George Phillips

20 Responses to “A Super Effort By Indianapolis”

  1. Bent Wickerbill Says:

    George, I have spent quite a bit of time in Indy on business in the last several years. I was also in attendance for for the 500 in 2010 and I think that you are absolutely right right about it being a great town. And the really special thing about it is, that Indy is not so big that it loses it’s mid western charm, but is still big enough to put on the ritz when it comes to a major event.
    And then of cours there is, “Mo’s, A Place For Steak”… http://www.mosindy.net/
    Mo’s really is about as fine a steak house as one can find… And they serve Andretti Winery products there…

  2. From the accounts of friends who live and work in Indy, they did a terrific job organizing the event. I think that big events like the Superbowl reap additional benefits from choosing regional cities like Indy to host their event. There’s something to be said for being the only show in town. Holding events like this in places like LA, NY, or even Atlanta, they tend to get lost in the shuffle.

  3. Indy did a fine job on Superbowl. I’m sure it was a boost to the community and will encourage future events.

    Question: Does Indianapolis do much (other than the parade, I guess) to support or promote the 500? Or do they sort of take that event for granted and leave all that to IMS? I suspect they could do much more but I’ll leave the answer to you folks that are annual visitors in May.

    • Indianapolis is very proud of the Indianapoils 500 and the Circle City turns the month of May into a festival for everyone to enjoy whether they are into racing or not. The 500 Festival mission statement is – “The mission of the 500 Festival is to advocate and celebrate the spirit, heritage and legacy of the Indianapolis 500. Through social, cultural and educational events and programs, the 500 Festival enhances the quality of life for all citizens of our communities. ”

      Besides the 500 Festival events, there are many other Indianapolis 500 related events found throughout the city.

      So, to answer your question, yes and that is one of the many qualities of the city and the state of Indiana.

      • Just wondering–speaking as a proud native of Indiana–if maybe the Festival hasn’t gotten a bit stale, predictable, less inventive–because they’ve done it for so long? You know–crown the Princess, black and white checkered pennants, probably a charity ball for rich folk. Check off the boxes like the year before and the year before.
        I’m wondering if the success of the Superbowl might inspire Indy to up the ante on the hoopla that surrounds the race in order to take advantage of the downtown area. My impression of the Festival is that it’s dusty and insular and self-congratulatory rather than inclusive, celebratory and economically profitable for all in the city.

        • Are you ribbing me or are you from Indiana as well? As for the Festival, they organize the parade, the 5k, mini-marathon (35,000 participants) Field tor the kids with good grades, community day and the “big ball” for the rich. Besides that, the festival committee works throughout the year securing sponsorships to pay for the events. As for getting stale, I guess a parade can get stale however the high school bands and the Gordon Pipers seem to always be turned on by participating. There are other events and such for the month of May as well which are staged by organizations other than the 500 Festival Committee. There are also enough party opportunities for those who aren’t into black tie events as well as parties put on by companies that have sponsorship at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Believe me, the city is lit up for May and always has been.
          Now, as for the 500 Princess program, well that might not be everyone’s cup of tea and I respect that, but for those with a more discriminating taste there might be a “Miss 500” contest at the Gold Club on Lafayette.
          The city of Indianapolis is awesome anyway and their chamber of commerce sells the heck out of that. There are some good schools, wonderful restaurants, AAA baseball, NFL and NBA, first class theater and night districts like Broad Ripple. Downtown is awesome, too. Also, Carmel, which is north of the city, is pretty awesome and Crooked Stick has held the PGA Tournament.
          One thing that Indianapolis does better than anyone and that is hosting big events. That skill no doubt, came from having the Indianapolis 500 run since 1911. Having the largest single day sporting event gate can give you that skill, too. Indianapolis doesn’t rest on its laurels in May, but the only way you can be sure of that is to not listen to me, but to experience it yourself.

          • I just thought Indianapolis and IMS could learn from the Superbowl and capitalize on it’s success . But I’ll shut up now and I really do hope to get “back home” to Indy and that race this year.

          • Redcar, in my opinion every year is a learning experience and there is no doubt that IMS got some fresh ideas working with the NFL this past week. I did think that the cars lined up on Meridian street south of the Monument Circle was sweet and I heard that a lot of NFL associated people kissed the bricks at an IMS event. I call it synergy and seeing that Tony George and IMS were very much a part of getting the Super Bowl to Indy as well as working with the event itself I would think that they did learn something. If you do get back to Indianapolis for the 500 then we two native Hoosiers should break bread at the track. The tenderloin is on me. 😉

  4. redcar … exactly my thought/question.

  5. There is not a negative thing to be said by anyone about the festivities. And while I’m sure New England fans aren’t going to have fond memories now, before the game some of them were interviewed on TV and they appeared to be enjoying the atmosphere. The worst I’ve heard was some good natured grumbling about how crowded places were. Which is part of the atmosphere: Tons of folks packing all the joints around town.

    I’m just pleased as all get-out that the Indy Super Bowl was successful. I’m happy that the businesses got exposure and a cash boost, I’m glad that the city got positive exposure, and I’m just glad it all went well. This was a good weekend.

  6. This old Hoosier was very proud of Indianapolis. hey, I am always proud of Indianapolis, it is a great place.

  7. Great read, George. As a lifetime resident of Indianapolis I could not be more proud of my city. I think we DO take the month of May for granted sometimes because we’ve been doing it so well for over 100 years now. This was different somehow, and I’ve had a smile on my face for the last week just soaking it all up.

    One comment, the Giants and Patriots indycars that I saw on south Meridian Street weren’t DW12s but older Dallaras just like the others. By the way, it wasn’t just locals who were VERY interested in the cars. Many people from out of town thought they were extremely cool as well. Fantastic idea on somebody’s part.

    • …..upon further review (Google is your friend, after all) there was at the vey least a Giants DW12. I have pics of older cars in Giants and Pats livery but apparently they did more than one car for the game participants.

  8. H.B. Donnelly Says:

    The city was beautifully turned out for it’s big coming-out party this week. I was trapped in the stadium for the first few days of the week, but when I finally made it to the Super Bowl village I was nearly in tears — I had never seen my adopted hometown so packed with people enjoying their time there. The ziplines, the food stands, the giant Roman numerals on the circle, people who barely knew racing was a sport taking pictures with the DW12 concepts in NYG and NE liveries (if I’m the Giants, I get a “champions” livery on that car and buy it off of Dallara)…it was all fantastic.

    I know Randy Bernard and company were downtown taking mental notes, and from what I have seen the past two years, we’ll see some of those mental notes come to life soon. Here’s to Indianapolis’ next big event, just under four months away now!

  9. As a transplanted Hoosier (Frankfort and Broadripple to Wisconsin), I was pleased but not surprised to see how Indianapolis created a truly outstanding and unique Super Bowl experience. Quite a contrast to the fiasco in Dallas. Positive vibes from this will resonate for years.

    The tie-ins to the Speedway were well done also. I would like to buy the car with the Green Bay Packer livery for my living room.

    Congratulations Napsters!

  10. As a lifelong hoosier, the game had ended, the News was on, and as I shut down things for the night, a tremendous feeling of pride hit me. 10 days of great exposure for the city.

    I sent a question in to Kevin Lee this week, asking what the Speedway had seen and is it measuring the effects of the Super Bowl, on the Speedway. I went out on Friday to the Speedway, asked one of the ladies working in the souvenir shops, how has business been. She advised myself that Friday traffic had really spiked with a large flavor of Patriot fans. I can only hope we will see a spike of Northeastern addresses come back for race weekend. The Indiana Business Journal estimated a 1-5 Million Dollar exposure for the Speedway/INDYCAR. We can only hope those figures are accurate and continue the momentum for a great racing season in 2012.

  11. james t suel Says:

    George i think you are right on the job that the city of Indianapolis did with the Super Bowl. I also belive that the Speedway and Indycar got a lot of good exposure to media that does not normialy pay attention to racing.

  12. Megan K. Bickel Says:

    You know how much pride I have in my city (Indy) and my town (Speedway), so you can only imagine how very pumped I was this past week watching everything unfold. Of course, the whole time I couldn’t help but think of the “what if”s in relation to the 500. I think the city puts a ton of effort into the May events, but I think the part that is lacking (aside from the obvious Saturday lull) is the marketing component. If they know about it, they will come!

    What about building on all these celebrities/media folks who now have a taste for Indy? For example, my husband suggested inviting Jimmy Fallon to drive the pace car or be the honorary starter. He taped his show here in Indy for the Super Bowl and produced some hysterical Indy-promoting segements that went viral. What if we got him as excited about the 500? Marco & the IMS played promanantly in one of those segments, so the connection is there. Jump on it!

    All these awesome tie-ins were fantastic. I just hope they are followed up with action.

    • Maybe Jimmy could do another “Head Swap” bit at the Speedway. I’m thinkin’ maybe A.J. Foyt on Arie Luyendyk.

  13. Nice post, George. Indy really is a great place, even when we pass “right to work” laws and try to legislate that creationism should be taught in science class. *sigh* But that conservative bent is one of the reasons Indy is such a nice place: we value hard work, good manners, and friendship.

    I would point out that there is a huge difference in the promotion of the Super Bowl and the 500. IMS promotes the 500; Indianapolis promoted the Super Bowl. The Hulman-George family rarely asks for city or state help other than with police, fire, and other safety related issues. I’m not sure that the city of Indianapolis feels any need to recreate the Super Bowl vibe for the 500. It’s already here and it’s staying. I posted a longer response at http://www.pressdog.com in regards to his premise that Indy and IMS need to do more to promote the race. As always, I have an opinion.

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