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One year later: State learned lessons after hosting Super Bowl

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Large crowds make their way along Georgia Street in downtown Indianapolis last year during Super Bowl activities.
Large crowds make their way along Georgia Street in downtown Indianapolis last year during Super Bowl activities. FILE PHOTO

Super Bowl weekend looks a lot different this time around than it did a year ago.

The celebrity parties and limousines have migrated south to New Orleans. Gone are the ziplines, the NFL Experience and the nightly concerts by LMFAO and Bret Michaels that took over Indianapolis.

For a vast majority of central Indiana, the Super Bowl is just another football game again.

Last year, central Indiana was consumed with special activities, free concerts and high-class parties surrounding the game. Local businesses enjoyed the infusion of more than 150,000 people who packed the region for the game and the activities surrounding it. Greenwood and Franklin hosted concerts, contests and activities to showcase their cities.

Then & Now

Last year: Indianapolis was host to the Super Bowl; and local restaurants, businesses and communities organized events and gatherings to celebrate.

This year: Local businesses say they aren’t planning any special events, other than showing the game or preparing take-out orders for people planning to watch the game at home.

What’s changed: Georgia Street, the site of last year’s Super Bowl Village, has become a new event hotspot in downtown Indianapolis. Businesses and communities also learned more about how to organize large-scale events.

After being in the center of the sports and entertainment universe, Sunday’s game comes with the letdown of remembering what had been.

“Everyone was more than willing to come together to support that event, open our doors and our businesses to out-of-town guests that time of year,” said Christian Maslowski, director of the Greater Greenwood Chamber of Commerce. “But it was for the Super Bowl, not every year.”

Johnson County officials planned events in Franklin and Greenwood to attract tourists to the area. Hundreds of people sampled Indiana beers during a pub crawl through Franklin and got into the Super Bowl spirit during a massive tailgate party.

The Baxter YMCA hosted a punt-pass-kick competition and a cheer clinic hoping to draw more families. Together, the local celebration drew nearly 1,000 people to the county, Maslowski said.

“We proved that as a community we could do this, we could bring these people together and can accommodate large crowds. That’s one thing to take away,” he said.

For Johnson County hotels, the Super Bowl proved to be a welcome bonus in what is usually the slowest time of year. Nearly every room available in Greenwood and Franklin was reserved, and those that were still available cost up to $1,000 per night.

Franklin’s Quality Inn booked all 46 of its available rooms, with a going rate of $400 per night. Guests had to reserve at least a three-night stay, meaning that each room would go for $1,200 at the minimum.

“People were willing to pay anything. That was the best thing,” said assistant manager Ila Patel.

But a normal weekend in early February doesn’t bring a fraction of that, Patel said. They will be lucky if half of their rooms are full on the weekends.

“We were very busy, and business-wise everything was so good. And this year is so slow,” she said.

Restaurants also face a drop in business compared to last year, although not as severe as the hotel industry.

Crowds went downtown

Though some area eateries saw increases in revenue during Super Bowl week last year, many reported that most tourists spent their time in downtown Indianapolis.

“People were paying to get here for that, and that’s where they wanted to be,” said Amy Arnold, manager of Fireside Brewhouse in Greenwood.

Fireside Brewhouse staff tried a variety of ideas to attract customers, including opening at 6 a.m. each day for a special breakfast before people headed downtown. But the large crowds they prepared for never came, Arnold said.

The restaurant found that even in the midst of the Super Bowl madness last year, they didn’t have that much larger of a crowd than they typically do on a Sunday.

“Since we’re more known for being a family restaurant, and for where we’re located, we get overlooked,” Arnold said.

The consensus has been that last year was a one-time bonanza that can’t be replicated.

Typically January and February are a time to recharge, Maslowski said. Unpredictable weather makes planning outdoor activities difficult, and the demand for an annual community event this time of year doesn’t exist.

“Coming off the holidays, we’re not too hungry for or feel like we’re missing a big community event,” he said. “It’s a collective cooling-off period for us. We don’t need a big community event every January.”

Scotty’s Brewhouse in Southport likely won’t even put up special decorations for this year’s games, manager Luke Duncan said. While the eatery will have drink specials and show the game, the focus will be on carry-out orders of chicken wings and other snack items.

“Super Bowl was one of our slower days. People were enjoying it in the comfort of their own homes, so it’s not too crazy from a dining room standpoint,” Duncan said. “But it balances out on carry-out orders.”

While last year may have been extraordinary for central Indiana, that doesn’t mean that area businesses and community leaders didn’t learn about how to deal with large events.

Lessons learned

The Quality Inn hosted people from all over the U.S., as well as a large business group from Mexico. Hotel staff members learned quickly that they were ill-prepared to communicate with people who didn’t speak their language, Patel said.

Since then, hotel officials have tried to become better at speaking Spanish.

“We learned a lot of how to run the business. We had a lot of different groups to work with, and people came from all over the country. That was a good experience,” Patel said.

In the case of Indianapolis getting another Super Bowl, Johnson County will have a better idea of the mindset of visitors. That way, they can tailor their celebrations to best serve them.

Since most of the fans in Greenwood or Franklin for the game spent much of their time in downtown Indianapolis, their own community celebrations should reflect that, Maslowski said.

“We probably won’t have to plan as much activities for them to do next time. They want to stay here, but they want to get downtown. We know that now,” he said.

They also learned that local communities need to do a better job of creating city spaces and attractions that will keep tourists, and the money they spend, in the area.

Maslowski pointed to ideas of developing Old Town Greenwood and the businesses on Madison Avenue. If that area of town had boutiques, fine restaurants and entertainment, that could entice out-of-towners to spend a few hours in Greenwood before heading downtown.

“If we had more spaces and places like that, people might be apt to stick around,” he said.

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