Big City Problems: The Super Bowl Hangover

The New Downtown: The downside to scoring a touchdown as Super Bowl host? Recapturing the high.

This article is part of Indianapolis Monthly’s The New Downtown package, which includes a guide to five hotspots, a few big city problems, and a look at what’s next for the city. For more content on navigating the new downtown, click here.

I vividly remember peering out over Georgia Street and seeing Al Roker. He kept saying the sweet-sounding word “Indianapolis” on national TV. Moments after the game, everyone was hugging. Indy had just pulled off the unimaginable—a 46-degree, zip-lining, media-applauding, Jimmy Fallon–attending Super Bowl. A dream if you’re in the business of marketing a city, as I am with Visit Indy.

The community spent four years planning the Super Bowl, then rode the wave of goodwill for weeks after the confetti fell. The game had galvanized us.

Then reality set in. The mood turned frigid, gloomy.

In 2015, a chance to host the 2018 game pepped us up again, then NFL owners nodded at the wrong “-apolis,” awarding the Super Bowl to Minnesota instead. The clouds rolled back in. 

Sitting around tables with our friends at the Indy Chamber, Downtown Indy, and the Indiana Sports Corp, we’ve wrestled with reclaiming that palpable buzz that was in the air during those warm February days in 2012. Can we host a Democratic or Republican National Convention? The Super Bowl again? There’s a hunger to get back to that level of community engagement and pride.

The more I’ve thought about it, I’m not sure we need to host another Super Bowl. Former Mayor Bill Hudnut was in Indy a few months back. He drew close, grasped my shoulder, and pointedly asked me, “What’s next for Indy? What are you excited about?”

And I finally had an answer.

Pretty soon, the Indy 500 will turn 100.

National media, A-list celebrities, epic parties, legacy projects. Does all of this sound familiar? Are you Super Bowl–level excited about this year’s race? I am. We all should be. Indy is bigger than one game—even that one.