Super Bowl Smackdown: Host Indianapolis Makes Dallas-Fort Worth Look Like a Bunch of Chumps

As the Super Bowl XLVI broadcast came back from one commercial break, NBC’s Al Michaels said something like (paraphrasing): “What’s so great about Indianapolis as a Super Bowl host is that it’s one of the places where everything is within walking distance.”

Sitting, as I was, in a living a room amidst the exurban sprawl of Frisco on Sunday, that comment stung. I mean, he wasn’t talking about North Texas, and yet he was.

And Michaels isn’t alone. Indianapolis is getting rave reviews for its hosting of the NFL’s championship extravaganza. Having been blessed with unseasonably pleasant weather this year (as opposed to the ice and snow we greeted fans with in Dallas for Super Bowl XLV), there’s already speculation about how soon the capital of Indiana will get to host another. It’s very unlike the “Will North Texas Ever Get to Host Another?” headlines that followed our region’s turn.

Much of the praise for Indy is about its compactness. Whereas North Texas had some activities in Fort Worth, others in Dallas, and the game in Arlington, with driving required to get anywhere, Indianapolis was walkable. Sports economist Patrick Rishe wrote a column for Forbes yesterday where he noted that “Bigger is not always better” – another slap in the face of Texas?

And most importantly for many sports spectators be they corporate or common Joe…you can freely imbibe and then simply stumble back to your hotel room …

The proximity between the stadium, the hotels, and the entertainment amenities shot the convenience quotient for out-of-town visitors through the roof…with the most taxing commutes of Super Bowl XLVI week in Indy being the 7 miles to either the Indianapolis Airport or driving north to either Broad Ripple’s entertainment district or to Butler University to catch a Bulldog basketball game.

Mac Engel of the Star-Telegram called Rishe and got him to make a head-to-head comparison:

“What happened last year in North Texas was so unfortunate because that was a situation where it could have worked,” he said in a phone interview. “You have things in Fort Worth and things in Dallas that make it an attractive destination. But Indianapolis proved that it’s not a detriment at all to have everything in one spot. It can be a real positive.”

Engel’s suggestion is that the next North Texas bid sell Fort Worth’s downtown as being as compact as Indy’s and to use it as the base for most of the activities (aside from the game, of course). A Fort Worth CVB representative points out that the city would need another major hotel to make that feasible, but never mind that, Engel writes:

Because a large, vibrant downtown on Randol Mill Road in Arlington is not a realistic possibility, and downtown Dallas remains primarily a financial district, the best alternative is here in Cowtown.

Most of these assessments of which region did a better job hosting, though, ignore what is likely the NFL’s bottom line. Where did they make more money?

Lucas Oil Stadium, the host on Sunday, accommodates about 70,000 people for the game. Cowboys Stadium can cram in more than 100,000.  Walkability be damned, they’re not going to ignore all that extra cash, are they?


  • D. Shapiro

    They’re compact and yet they beat both Dallas and Ft. Worth in DUIs? Odd.

  • Max Edison

    Good. I hope they never come back. It was a financial disaster and nothing should ever be scheduled in North Texas in February. You just never know. It is a party for rich people for the most part, and I say to hell with it.

  • fred

    Fort Worth is not large enough, it would have to be in Downtown Dallas. Perhaps greedy Jerry made a big mistake hoodwinking the Arlington taxpayers after all…

  • Boss

    “Lucas Oil Stadium, the host on Sunday, accommodates about 70,000 people for the game. Cowboys Stadium can cram in more than 100,000. Walkability be damned, they’re not going to ignore all that extra cash, are they?”

    The NFL made a lot more money from Indy. Over a million people visited the Super Bowl Village in Indy this past week.

    There are over 15 major Hotels and 200 pubs and restaurants in walking distance (400 total if you add the adjacent neighborhoods around downtown Indy. One can walk to countless malls, museums, monuments etc, etc. No other host can touch this. Indy Rocks!!!!

  • Tom

    Miami has hosted multiple Super Bowls with the game at one site and the rest concentrated a good distance away. No matter which city is chosen to base the operations, perhaps it should follow Miami’s lead.

  • Hey Now

    I’ve always believed that pitting fill-in-the-blank city vs. Dallas bores most readers. With a few exceptions, our city is not very parochial and we are too transient.

  • Long Memory

    My son would hate me for saying this, but I could care less if there’s ever another Super Bowl at Jerryworld. And yet, I can’t help but think that if we took away the arctic conditions of a year ago, then North Texas would have fared just fine. Sunshine means a lot, you know? People don’t mind driving someplace to find a drink either.

  • Sport

    I’m just glad my tax $$ aren’t paying for Jerry’s stadium. I don’t care where they have it.

  • Ryan

    Living in fort worth I could not agree with this article more. Without walkability and mass transit these an event spread over the distance of most entire states will always fail.

  • Wes Mantooth

    Bear in mind that Indy has a deep familiarity with hosting big sporting events that DFW can’t begin to touch. The Indy 500 has fallen off in the last few years, but until recently it was the center of a monthlong party. It has been on the short list for hosting the Final Four for the better part of the last 20 years, and that’s only gotten bigger and bigger. Indy has been hosting the NFL Combine every February for 25 years straight. For more than 30 years running, Indy has focused on downtown development, particularly the part of downtown south of the Circle and especially the quadrant between the Circle and the Convention Center/Lucas Oil. On top of which, Indy has a very large convention facility that hosts gigantic corporate conventions and trade shows almost nonstop.

    If DFW wants to match Indy in performance, it needs to make a very concerted effort to focus its development, something that seems to be anathema to our civic leaders. Indy may not be a “cool” place, but everybody not named Mike Rhyner seemed to have a great time in Indy for the Super Bowl.

  • shm

    Not to be a homer but the severity of the 2011 weather during the same week last year would probably have been just as equally a negative story for Indianapolis. After Tuesday 2-1, Press Day, when we were hit with the ice – Indianapolis Airport was practically shut down with 90% of flights cancelled. If you look at the CNN Tracking of the Storm that day the report reads “An ice storm warning was issued in Indianapolis. Roads will become impassable, and widespread, long-duration power outages are likely, officials said.” Despite all the fantastic effort of the hosts in Indy (and congrats to them) – the main story coming out of Indy that week from the press (who only want the SB in San Diego or Miami anyway) would have been “shouldn’t hold the Super Bowl in a cold climate” instead of all the positive accomplishments of the hosts. Honestly -swap the years and a different narrative would probably be in place. I guess it just sucks for us that God apparently hates Jerry so much. Feeling we’ll get one more – with most events centered around Downtown/Uptown Dallas with the Game in Arlington.

  • dallasboiler

    I don’t know why people take these comparisons personally. I’m an Indy native who’s lived in Dallas for more than a decade, and I’m not surprised one bit that Indy’s hosting experience came off better. Indy is a fun town when events like this (Indy 500, Final Four, Pan Am games) take place, but the other ~48 weeks of the year it is a pretty sleepy place. The Dallas-Fort Worth area may not be have a compact downtown and unified agencies to pull off an event the same way that Indy does, but on any given week day or weekend I would prefer to be here vs. there. If citizens of Dallas cared so much about such comparisons, then we all should have bowed down to Jerry Jones’ demands to give him whatever tax breaks necessary to build Jerryworld over in Fair Park. While it would be awesome to have those events closer to Dallas, I’m happier not having my tax bill going directly into Mr. Jones’ pockets.

  • Rhonda Lee Starr

    Indy is a much better place for a Super Bowl than Dallas or Houston. Now if the NFL could find a way to hold a Super Bowl in Austin or San Antonio….

  • Matt

    Aside from the weather, the big issue with the Arlington Super Bowl was it just came across as a big money grab for Jerry World. No where did he think about evaluating the fan experience, it was just profits first, enjoyment second. Honestly Dallas isn’t nearly as culturally diverse as say Austin or San Antonio-I think they would be much better host cities. The thing that annoyed me when I was down in Dallas last year for the Super Bowl was the immense scope of the festivities. Indy kept everything nice and compact, while Dallas tried going for the every thing is bigger approach. Bigger is not always better. What Austin seems to be doing with the proposed racing circuit seems to be a much better plan than Jerryworld.

  • Gary

    After reading the responses to this article, two things become very clear: North Texas and the media there stil don’t get it.

    On the other hand Europeans understood it completely. The entire set up looks oddly enough like World Cup Soccer.

    Don’t fool yourselves. Indy is in the snowbelt They know more than just a couple things to do handle snow and ice…had that storm hit Indy it would not have shut the city down