INDIANAPOLIS – The NFL has conducted its previous 45 Super Bowls in 13 different playing venues.
South Florida has hosted 10 Super Bowls. New Orleans is the runner-up with nine such games.
Many among the anticipated 150,000 visitors this week will be Super Bowl veterans. Some may be first-time visitors to the city.
Two of New Orleans' most famous native football citizens have Indianapolis connections. Legendary Saints quarterback Archie Manning, father to two famous football sons, and former Colts running back and Hall-of-Famer Marshall Faulk know Indianapolis will be a terrific host site. Manning and Faulk are veteran visitors and claim the compact nature of Indianapolis can make it a great site. Indianapolis: 'The Big Easy.'
"I think Indianapolis will do a wonderful job," said Manning. "There are so many things Olivia and I have enjoyed about Indianapolis for the past 14 years. One thing is we've seen the city change. We've seen the culture change in regard to football. One thing that has been common is how nice the people are, and what a wonderful community it is. I know a little something about Super Bowls. I know it takes a lot of effort from the people and the volunteers. Indianapolis will lead the world in that. They will be great. We got to know the sports foundation people when we first came here (in 1998). I know the leadership of this game, how proud they are of their city and how they realize this is a great opportunity for Indianapolis. I know they'll make the best of it."
The downtown area will have a festival feel for visitors and the competing teams. Lucas Oil Stadium is in the near-heart of the action and is only a short walk from the most popular establishments and hotels. The competing teams' headquarters even are within four miles, helping to ensure a compact environment. That is something Manning said people noticed around Super Bowl IV, New Orleans' first game, and it will help here.
"I think that's what everyone loves about New Orleans," said Manning. "We've had nine Super Bowls here (in New Orleans), and that's one thing they love about it. You're kind of looped in there together. You don't necessarily have to travel 50 miles to an event. It was one of the early sites for a Super Bowl and everybody liked that part of it and people always enjoyed when it returned. Indianapolis is like that. That will be a plus."
Faulk played for Indianapolis from 1994-98. He has been a regular for the NFL Network for the annual Combine held locally. He likes the tightness Indianapolis shares with New Orleans.
"There are only two cities that have this type of characteristic to it – New Orleans and Indianapolis – where the atmosphere is that everything is within walking distance and not a long walk," said Faulk. "I think it (the compact nature) had a lot to do with it. I think the owners and the people who make the decisions have an opportunity to come into Indianapolis for the Combine every year. They know, they understand. The last five years I've been there (for the Combine), you get to see how the city can handle everything. I think the vibe downtown (is good). All the improvements they've made downtown have the feel for the Super Bowl."
For those lucky enough to be in the 68,000-person mix for the game, Faulk feels Lucas Oil Stadium will extend the fun factor.
"I don't know who designed it. I don't know who built it, but it's a gem," said Faulk. "It's one of the top ones (NFL stadiums) that we have in our game. When you think about what you have in Dallas and Arizona, I would put it up there with those stadiums."
Veteran Dallas Morning News columnist Rick Gosselin has covered 28 previous Super Bowls. He has attended Colts games many times in the past and feels Indianapolis is a solid choice for the title event.
"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.
"The two best experiences I had in all those games were Detroit and Minneapolis. The cities embraced what they are -- Northern, cold weather cities -- and made no apologies for it. They opened up their arms and hearts and made all those in attendance feel welcome. I would expect the same warm reception from the city Indianapolis. Indianapolis knows how to run a big event, and the compact nature of the downtown area should be the blueprint for all progressive cities.
Faulk maintains affection for the Colts fans. He is pleased his first NFL city will have a chance to see the Super Bowl from close proximity.
"It will be exciting for the football community in Indianapolis," said Faulk. "They've been great to the team ever since they've moved there. I remember playing there and the stadium was sold out (consistently). For them to be rewarded with a Super Bowl, for the great stadium they built and for the great support they give the Colts, now the city will be re-paid. I think the Super Bowl is the best thing we have going. I think it's the best event because it's only one game. The city will get a chance to display all it has been displaying to the Indianapolis 500, the Brickyard, the Final Four and basketball. I'm very into it in having them (the local fans) see it (the Super Bowl)."