The Super Bowl Host Committee reported 1.1 million fans through the Super Bowl Village. The NFL Experience set a new attendance mark with well over 200,0o0. The focus was on the fans and you could tell. Years ago it would have just been the 70,000 or so fans that could attend the game with the experience. Now over 1 million fans walk away with a Super Bowl experience. With the home entertainment experience improving, sporting events and festivals will need to think about the event experience a little longer. The Super Bowl Committe in Indy thought about it for three years and it paid off well. The Super Bowl Village had 10 days of free concerts, 110 hours of live ESPN broadcasts from the Pan Am Plaza, interactive exhibits, sponsor activations, nightly fireworks, a department store transformed into a lounge, food, outdoor bars and a zipline that was the big hit with over 10,000 people zipping down a 96′ drop 800 ft down Capitol Avenue in front of the NFL Experience. At one end of the Village you could check out the Indiana Pacers at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse and at the other end the NFL Experience. Just south of the SB Village you had Lucas Oil Stadium. It is no secret that the downtown Indy set-up made it more fan friendly with its convenience. Plenty of restaurants in walking distance and great weather although I wish Saturday night would have been light snow over the rain. You felt part of the event without attending the actual game. It was an experience you would talk about.
Indy’s big secret weapon is its core volunteer base. The Indiana Sports Corporation has to be the best at keeping a strong database of enthusiatic and go-getter type volunteers. Maybe it was the swag. Volunteers were given some really nice apparel and a lot got free zipline rides. The airport and hotels had volunteers greeting guests. The taxi companies were given service training. The NFL hired the Disney Institute to help game day workers provide the best experience possible. If you had a question, their were volunteers at most touchpoints to answer them. I found it really convenient receiving text updates on weather and other activities from the NFL. In one instance they texted they were closing one of the fan plazas due to high winds earlier in the week.
A lot of the parties were in walking distance from the Super Bowl Village some private and some not. Direct TV had the best set-up taking over Victory Field downtown and creating a buzz all week on the Dan Patrick Show. They tented just about the entire outfield of the class AAA ballpark. Jackson Street downtown hosted a lot of parties at the local night clubs. Bud Light took over the Hampton and made it the Bud Light Hotel. The Hilbert Circle Theatre was also a popular location with the Late Night with Jimmy Fallon show and Bob Costas NFL town hall series. There was also a lot of talk about the Maxim Party at the State Fairgrounds and the Taste of the NFL at Gleaners. Both 10-15 minutes from downtown. The St. Elmo Steakhouse probably had the biggest concentration of celebrities throughout the 10 days. One night feeding boths teams. All of the movers and shakers in sports ate their at least once.
There was a lot of talk about the hotel rooms being the highest ever with groups staying as far away as Chicago and Louisville. People did settle for some substandard hotels and pay 5 to 10 times the rate and a lot required four night minimums. Sports Business Journal ran an article on it in their January 30 – February 5 issue interviewing a lot of sports hospitality agencies. Parking was $20 – $30 days before the Super Bowl and higher the day of the event. I think the parking lots were too greedy at first and then had to adjust and pull back. A lot of people and volunteers parked at the Indianapolis Zoo. I was able to go from Greenwood to a parking garage in 15 minutes a few hours before the game. It was never a problem getting into downtown as the highways seemed pretty normal. Washington street just a couple blocks north of the SB Village was transformed into the bus transportation center transporting people from different parts of town. Virginia Street northeast of the SB Village was made into the main taxi stand, but I saw people getting into them all around the downtown.
There were a number of adjustments made by City officials throughout the 10 days. One that was key was when IMPD (Indianapolis Metro Police Department) altered the traffic flow in and out of the SB Village. On Friday night before and during the LMFAO concert it was girdlock. You could walk in and out of the Village on any of the adjacent streets. The Village was actually near capacity and you could get stuck in the crowd with people trying to work their way in and others trying to work their way out. Some minor injuries were reported, but it could have worse with the amount of people and the drinking. But it was a great crowd of people as most were very patient. On Saturday night people were pushed to Capitol Street to enter and you could exit on Illinois and Meridian. More people meant the need for more restrooms. Tons of trash was hauled out of the Village and the local DPW was fantastic. Rarely did you see overflowing trash cans for very long. It was not like Mardi Gras where there is a smell or at least there was the time I visited the event. The NFL Commish said Indy would be considered again and the national media gave its praise as well. That’s what happens when you are fans first and have the right people with the right plan.