This past weekend I had the opportunity to travel to Indianapolis, Indiana, which recently put its name on the map as the host of the 2012 NFL Super Bowl. While walking through Downtown Indy, I gazed at the leftover signs and decorations outside of residences and storefronts, and wondered what a city would need to do to accommodate around 150,000 visitors. During my trip there, everyone coined Indy as an “underrated city.” Therefore, it was crucial for Indy to create a pleasant experience for its tourists that would make this Mid-Western city globally competitive.
Indianapolis prepared in several ways. First, the City constructed a new airport terminal in 2008 that was built about 16 miles away from Downtown. The new terminal was sited in a more efficient location than the old, allowing for more airlines and connections to be made at Indianapolis International. Built with energy efficiency in mind, in November of 2011 it also became the nation’s first LEED certified airport.
Next, Indy accommodated visitors by creating a compact Downtown and allocating it as the center of the Super Bowl. In 2008 the Lucas Oil Stadium was built about six blocks away from the Soldier’s and Saint’s Monument, the symbolic center of the City, giving it a “very walkable” Walk Score of 72. It was purposefully built to be within walking distance of Indy’s hotels, restaurants, and cultural district. While one would think that a stadium built right near the center of the Downtown would be distracting, the Lucas Oil Stadium fits surprisingly well with the fabric. This is mainly due to its brick design in that it looks more like a large building than a stadium. Additionally, creating a walkable Downtown was the formation of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, an urban bike and pedestrian path connecting the five downtown cultural districts. Indianapolis’s walkable Downtown urged Forbes to coin Indianapolis as the Super Bowl XLVI's “Real Winner."
While many Downtown businesses reaped the benefits of the Super Bowl crowd, businesses in outlying districts, such as Broad Ripple and Fountain Square, suffered as tourists and visitors concentrated Downtown. Additionally, the City faced many costs to hold the Super Bowl. In the planning phases, the City estimated that it would spend anywhere from $7.8 million to $8.2 million on Super Bowl expenses such as police overtime, trash pickup, new signs, safety vehicles and supplies, and temporary permits. Many experts say that many of the benefits of the Super Bowl may only be short-term. Additionally, while the Super Bowl allowed Indy to re-think its Downtown and walkability, there are still many problems it faces in connecting the rest of the city. Primarily, the City lacks a reliable mass transit system and during my stay there not once did we use public transportation. The infrastructures in the East and West neighborhoods are dilapidated and the public education system has countless failing schools. While large events like the Super Bowl bring in revenue, tourism, a walkable Downtown and attention to the city, the question is, is it enough to solve the city’s larger problems that prevent it from becoming globally competitive?
Guest Contributor: Natalie Eller