Indianapolis a nice choice

By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / January 30, 2012
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INDIANAPOLIS - It seems strange, this Midwestern city draped in Super Bowl finery, the fans walking around in bulky jackets and layers under their jerseys. There are reminders everywhere, including the image of the Lombardi trophy and the XLVI plastered all the way up the side of a hotel.

But who is looking? Everyone here seems to be walking too fast, hands shoved in pockets for warmth, intent on getting to the next destination. Indianapolis, it’s fair to say, surely isn’t New Orleans or Arizona, two sites of other Patriots Super Bowls in the Belichick/Brady era. It certainly isn’t Miami or San Diego.

“Indy is Indy,’’ said Dianna Boyce, director of communications for the Super Bowl host committee. “One of the things that I think hopefully people will see here is that it is the people here who make the difference.

“There’s a great people factor here that brings about the warmth that you might not get in San Diego.’’

Though, for Indianapolis, this is likely to be its only shot at Super Bowl glory.

Indianapolis isn’t going to become an NFL habit. This game is a new stadium prize, an honor given to the city to spread the wealth and to reward Indianapolis for financing Lucas Oil Stadium. It won’t be thrown into the usual, warm-weather, rotation. It’s more along the lines of Jacksonville, Fla., where the Patriots beat the Eagles in February 2005, and New Jersey - MetLife Stadium, home of the Jets and Giants - the Super Bowl site in two years.

It’s Indianapolis, though, that has been called the most urban Super Bowl ever by the NFL, because of the stadium’s downtown location and the fact that the events are smashed into a relatively small city center area. (And it’s one that, really, doesn’t even require going out into the elements, with a sky walk between many of the downtown hotels, the convention center, and the stadium.)

“We are very compact. We’re connected and convenient downtown,’’ Boyce said. “We’re calling it the ‘Epicenter of Awesome.’

“We’re excited to showcase that to the world.’’

This is, of course, not the first time the NFL has gone cold for a Super Bowl. There was Detroit, and the snowfall that blanketed the area in February 2006 when the Steelers beat the Seahawks for the title. There were the ice storms that plagued Dallas last year, a force even Cowboys owner Jerry Jones couldn’t avoid.

But Indianapolis isn’t attempting to ignore the cold. It’s not Miami, and it’s not trying to be.

“Kind of embracing that winter theme,’’ Boyce said. “Get your winter on, it’s cool, is really what we’ve said all along. [We’re] just embracing the whole outdoor festival theme.’’

That includes warming zones, hot chocolate, and the type of heated benches found on the sidelines at an NFL game.

The way to explain Indianapolis, really, comes from how the city delivered its bids to the NFL owners. Eighth-graders were tasked with the project, 32 of them, each one delivering Indianapolis’s bid to a different NFL owner. It was Midwestern and homespun and so very Indianapolis. The city won the bid.

That happened back in 2008, the year Lucas Oil Stadium opened. It has a retractable roof and all the amenities a fan (and a committee of owners) could want. It already has been home to a Final Four and the Big Ten football championship.

It’s the reason the Patriots and Giants are here this week, really.

To welcome fans to town, Indianapolis is doing its best to be inviting, to be nice. That’s what it’s known for, after all. There is a downtown zip line and the Super Bowl Village, one that’s supposed to be reminiscent of Olympic Villages, with the roads shut down in a three-block stretch. There will be everything from concerts to ice sculptures to human hamster wheels.

There also will be traffic and lines, with the Super Bowl spectacle so contained. But that’s to be expected, cramming so many people into a roughly eight-block square.

But Indianapolis believes it’s ready, having played host to big events. The city will be doing its best to be itself, complete with thousands of hand-knit scarves in the Colts colors to show its guests a bit of Hoosier Hospitality.

“It has a lot of things a big city can offer, but it has a small-town atmosphere,’’ said Donna Stroude, 53, from Indianapolis. “It’s a pretty friendly place.’’

Added Jeff Stroude, 50, “The city gets to show itself off every year, at least twice a year with the [auto] races. I think this one is a little bit special because it’s more condensed. Trying to put your best foot forward to let everyone see how good this city is.’’

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.

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