INDIANAPOLIS – The city of Indianapolis set a template in place for future growth about 35 years ago, and sporting events were key vehicles targeted to assist the process.
Long known worldwide for racing, the city also had basketball, baseball and hockey, and amateur sports became a draw, too. The Final Four came in 1980, and future ones followed.
Indianapolis attracted the Colts in 1984, and the growth spurt continued. In the late 1980s, the city was identified for the annual NFL Combine that attracted owners, general managers and other decision-makers. A reputation for hosting professional football events beyond Colts games was earned.
This week, the city is hosting Super Bowl XLVI and the expected influx of 150,000 visitors. Colts Owner and CEO Jim Irsay was a key player in attracting an event that casts the world's eye on a championship site.
Irsay feels the city has performed with its typical excellence with "big-time" events, and he believes there could come a time when Indianapolis might host a second Super Bowl.
"I really think so. It has been outstanding in terms of the preparation, the way the week has begun and the way everything is going," said Irsay. "The central-located aspect is really critical because when you go to spread-out areas, it is really difficult. Even competing teams have complained about when you are really spread out how hard that is.
"I really think that on the face of it when you first think of Indianapolis, Indiana, and you think, 'Would it be a place you return?' The first thought might be, 'No.' But when you literally see the job that we're doing and the experience that everyone is going to have, and people know us from the Combine from coming here as well, I really think that we have a serious chance to have another opportunity here. I really do.
"I think that when everyone leaves after this week, they are really going to come off in saying that, 'Indy has a special ability to do a Super Bowl, because of the centrally-located aspect (and) because of handling big events.' I really think that grades are going to be outstanding when the week is done."
The Super Bowl attracts veteran journalists who have covered the event for years, as well as championship events in other sports. Many have seen Indianapolis as a Final Four site. Many have been to the 13 other cities that have hosted Super Bowls.
One such person is Rick Gosselin, the columnist for the Dallas Morning News. Sunday will be the 29th Super Bowl for Gosselin, and he knows those attending the game and having fun in the city will be pleased with the football experience he has seen for years.
"I always have been a fan of Indianapolis, for the quality of the sports venues and the easy access the city provides," said Gosselin. "This will be a unique setting for a Super Bowl, and I think people who visit will have a great experience. The many times I have attended Colts games, I have found it to be one of the best sports cities going. The hospitality, the entertainment, an outstanding venue like Lucas Oil Stadium are just three of the elements that make Indianapolis a great choice. The downtown area is compact. There will be an atmosphere for fun, and I know the people attending will enjoy the weekend. Indianapolis will host the game in a first-class manner, and people will see why the NFL chose the city."