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?

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