INDIANAPOLIS – Jim Irsay has worked for 40 of his 52 years in building the Colts into a franchise that would be an NFL model.
For the past 28 years, he has plugged his team into the city of Indianapolis and the state of Indiana, and he has witnessed a growth pattern.
He has seen his team perform to an elite level in winning multiple division titles and appearing in two Super Bowls, winning one World Championship.
Prior to his team's specific historic run, he observed Indianapolis transform itself into one of the nation's most vibrant cities, in sports and in other areas, too.
Indianapolis used sports as a revitalization template for the past 35 to 40 years. For the past three and a half years, the push to bring a Super Bowl to the city increased, and the dream was realized when the area was awarded Super Bowl XLVI.
Six days away from kickoff, Irsay joined Governor Mitch Daniels, Mayor Steve Ballard and Host Committee executives Mark Miles and Allison Melangton in talking about this crowning moment for the city and state.
"We're really excited to be here," said Irsay. "Governor (Mitch Daniels), Mayor (Steve Ballard), (Host Committee Chairman) Mark (Miles) and (Host Committee President and CEO) Allison (Melangton) have done a tremendous job. The governor and mayor being supportive and helping get this Super Bowl here, the stadium (Lucas Oil) built. Mark and Allison, just superstars, and all the heavy lifting they've done.
"For me, this is a dream come true, to start at 12 years old as a ballboy picking up jockstraps 40 years ago to being here hosting a Super Bowl. From being in a Super Bowl and losing, being in one and winning and now hosting all within a six-year period is so exciting. There are so many people to thank, players, coaches, our whole organization, all our fans and the city and state. The thing I believe about this event is, 'Ask not what the Super Bowl can do for you, but what you can do for the Super Bowl when you're in this community.'
Indianapolis is the 14th site to host a Super Bowl. Irsay knows his team is a component to the process, but the process is about much more.
"To me, this isn't about the Colts. This is about Indianapolis, about Indiana," said Irsay. "We're really excited to show everybody what we're about. Being on the (NFL's) Super Bowl Committee, which I've been on for years, I know the way we're prepared, the way we've controlled the weather…we're really excited. It's something I know we're going to do an outstanding job.
"When we (the Colts) came here in 1984 and looking at the city and looking at the changes that have happened in the last 28 years or so, it's amazing. To see the franchise rise to great heights and to win a championship, to build this new stadium, to have the Combine here, all the things that have happened, (we're) just very blessed. There are too many people to thank. They always make you look good, all the people behind the scenes who work so hard. I could not be more excited. I think that we're going to be able to show the world that we are deserving for a second chance someday down the line. I really do. I think that's the type of job we're going to do here and the experience is going to be great. We are ready to go."
Daniels used a national moment last week to cite Indianapolis as the host of Super Bowl XLVI. On Monday, he spoke again about his regard for the efforts by many who have helped ensure this will be a moment that will spotlight the city and state fabulously.
"We are lucky in Indianapolis to have dynastic, dominant franchise. It's the Indiana Sports Corporation, which is absolutely, far and away without equal, the best, most professional and expert organizers of top-quality sporting events in the country," said Daniels. "The professional cadre they have of 20,000 or more 'seasoned' volunteers, I've been able to say with confidence to people around the country the last few months that you'll never see a better-prepared Super Bowl – those things that human beings can do to make it an enjoyable and successful experience. It will all be done, and more. I say thanks to everyone, but primarily to Mark (Miles) and Allison (Melangton) and the tremendous team they assembled. We already can see what we knew was going to happen. It's a matchless presentation. Every American who gets here will be so glad they did."
Ballard stewards the city in many challenges and opportunities. He joined Irsay and Daniels with appreciation for the large coordinated effort to organize and orchestrate the Super Bowl. It has been a process that has benefited his city already.
"I welcome everybody to our great city," said Ballard. "I can't give enough credit not only to the people up here today, but the people on the committees and the volunteer base in our city, which I believe is second to none around the country. When I have talked locally about the Super Bowl, I say the city already has won, on a number of charity events, neighborhood revitalizations. So many things are happening…it's tough to imagine as a result of people coming together from different disciplines and making this Super Bowl event their own. It's been an amazing journey. It's been a thrill ride for four years. Now, it's here, and I believe the city will shine so brightly."
Miles and Melangton were recipients of thanks for their dedicated efforts. The pair has managed the committee's staff, 60 volunteer committees, 150 co-chairs and more than 800 committee members. In total, there have been countless, selfless volunteers in the effort, and getting a Super Bowl was a dream that likely started more than a generation ago.
"In a real way, we've been planning in detail for five years as a community. In an equally real way, we've been building this city for this event for 40 years," said Miles. "With the NFL, it's our intention to deliver a new urban model for hosting Super Bowls which we hope will be very appealing for all our visitors. We decided to open the Super Bowl Village with the NFL Experience last Friday. As of last night, we've had 200,000 people play in Super Bowl Village and 100,000 at the NFL Experience. We feel like we're off to a great start."
"This really has been a journey of engagement for Indiana residents for the last three and a half years as we put our plan together," said Melangton. "The human touch was important to us here in Indiana in making people feel very welcome and individually important to us. When we set out, we created a number of programs to diversify our engagement and get as many people as we could connected to this Super Bowl so they would feel ownership and they would feel a part of it."