INDIANAPOLIS – The city of Indianapolis has achieved a well-earned reputation as a sports destination.
City planners mapped out a plan in the mid-1970s to revitalize the area, and attracting sporting events and governing bodies was a chief strategy. Long home to racing, basketball, hockey and baseball, the Colts arrived in 1984. The performance of the team over the last 14 years has been to an elite level, and visitors for football and other events recognize the city for its accomplishments and convenience.
The next chance to host a key sporting event will be the biggest, Super Bowl XLVI.
Each of the past three Super Bowls have attracted record television audiences, with last year's title event drawing 162.9 million people who watched all or part of the game between Pittsburgh and Green Bay.
An anticipated visitor flock of about 150,000 will hit Indianapolis this week, many who will be here for a first time. What they will find is what many already know – Indianapolis is a 'big-time' sporting city.
"I think Indianapolis might be one of the premier 'big sporting event' cities in America because of all the different great championships it has had there," said NBC producer Fred Gaudelli. "It has the Indianapolis 500, which is a staple, then the Final Four seemingly makes it way there every three-to-four years. The Pacers have been in the NBA Finals. I think Indianapolis is more than well-equipped."
Gaudelli has been an NFL producer for 23 years and has been in network television for more than 30 years. He has been a frequent visitor to Indianapolis during his years with ESPN, ABC and NBC. He has seen the city emerge to its leader status.
"I think when the Colts selected Peyton Manning number one in 1998, what happened over the next 13 years was amazing," said Gaudelli. "All the sudden the Colts became one of the NFL's two or three premier teams. As the Colts became that team, the city got more exposure. The team out-grew the RCA Dome and the city built what I think is one of the state-of-the-art stadiums in all the National Football League. The city and the Colts have kind of grown together, but the city kind of has grown on the backs of the Colts."
Gaudelli will direct the game broadcast that will reach millions. He has produced many Colts games in the past, and he has spent significant time in Indianapolis this season scouring Lucas Oil Stadium for maximum coverage. Gaudelli believes the stadium is part of the 'big-time' culture of the city.
"Starting with the naming – Lucas Oil Stadium – I don't think there has been another stadium where the naming rights have been so creatively displayed and woven into the fabric of the stadium, whether it's the plaza area with the different vehicles Lucas Oil has been a part of through the years," said Gaudelli. "It's indigenous to Indianapolis, where racing has been such a huge sport. From that end, I've always been very, very enamored how the naming rights were integrated into the stadium.
"From a television perspective, it just has a lot of neat features. Obviously, the retractable roof won't be in operation on Super Bowl Sunday, but I love it. I think it's tremendous. I love the big glass windows that give you the view of downtown. I think every seat in the house is fantastic. The camera angles and the sight lines are exactly what you want from a television perspective."
Among the NBC platforms in Indianapolis will be CNBC. Its business reporter, Darren Rovell, recently lauded Indianapolis in an interview for its convenience outside the game itself.
"Indianapolis is the best Super Bowl city I've ever seen," said Rovell. "For example, when you go to New Orleans, you go to the parties, which are a big part of the weekend. You can pretty much go to one party a night. It takes an hour or two to get five miles. Indianapolis is like eight blocks. The parties that are taking place in the same place Thursday and Friday night, you can walk. The whole weekend experience you can't discount. Indy is a tremendous city."