Indianapolis faces hurdles for second Super Bowl bid

Colts owner Jim Irsay

Still basking in the afterglow of Super Bowl XLVI, Indianapolis is now going for the 2018 game.

The effort will put the city back in the national spotlight, but that doesn't mean it will be easy.

Many assumed Indianapolis got the 2012 Super Bowl in large part for building a new stadium. While it received rave reviews for hosting a memorable and by many accounts flawless event, everyone from the mayor to Colts owner Jim Irsay has stressed there are no guarantees the city will land another Super Bowl.

To get the 2012 game, Indianapolis built a new stadium, expanded the convention center and helped finance the 1,005-room JW Marriott. The city offered up more than the 18,000 rooms required to host the Super Bowl.

But following the game, some league officials said there weren't enough rooms downtown, especially luxury rooms. The Indiana Hotel and Lodging Association counts 4,500 "full-service rooms" downtown.

While the 278-room University Place Hotel on the IUPUI campus is closing as a hotel, a new 209-room Dolce Hotel is going up as part of the City Way project just south of downtown.

Asked about building another hotel, Chris Gahl with the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association said, "To say we're ready for another hotel to enter the landscape is probably a little premature."

Gahl said hotel occupancy needs to hover around 70 percent before adding more rooms. It's currently just over 66 percent.

"And while it would be nice to put a luxurious high end hotel downtown," he said. "If we can't sustain it year-round from a tourism perspective we're not doing our job."

John Livengood, president of the Indiana Hotel and Lodging Association agreed, "you're not going to build a hotel for one great week."

He said while hotels were "getting back to pre-2008 times, rates aren't quite where they were."

But both Livengood and Gahl noted a lot could change between now and 2018, especially as the convention center expansion draws more and larger events.

In fact, there's talk of eventually building a hotel at Pan Am Plaza to meet the growing demand and possibly a second Super Bowl.

Another possible obstacle to the 2018 bid is the size of Lucas Oil Stadium. At 63,000 seats, it's one of the smallest in the league and the more seats a stadium has, the more money the NFL gets.

Indianapolis was considered the front-runner when it bid in 2007 until Dallas came back at the last minute promising 100,000 seats.

Still, Irsay doubts stadium size will be the determining factor.

"I do think we compare to Minneapolis and Tampa and Arizona for instance [which will host its third Super Bowl in 2015] I just don't think it will make that much of a difference," he said.

Irsay noted the draw of a warm, sunny destination is probably a bigger issue. It plays well with the corporate crowd.

During this year's Super Bowl, Indianapolis enjoyed incredible spring-like weather, but when asked about the odds of replay, WTHR meteorologist Chris Wright said, "You mean 60 degrees?"

After a long, hearty laugh he said, "I don't know if I'd bet on that," noting that February is better known for snow and temps in thirties.

But the host committee never expected the unusually mild weather and in fact, planned for the worst case scenario - snow, ice and bitter cold temperatures.

Though the city never spent a dime on snow removal, the mayor said, "we had a great plan," adding that fans would have had "the same great reception," even if it had been cold or snowy.

And as most people remember, Dallas with its much bigger venue, lost a lot of points for the way it handled an ice storm in 2011.

Like others Livengood believes, Indianapolis "proved we can handle the Super Bowl" and do it well. The challenge now? Convincing the NFL to give it a reprisal.