SBJ/January 30-February 5, 2012/Super Bowl

‘Fans First’ as event rolls into Indianapolis

Welcome to the “Fans First” Super Bowl, the NFL’s makeup for troubles that plagued last year’s event in North Texas.

The league’s official slogan for the big game this year underscores the seating fiasco and other problems during the 2011 Super Bowl at Cowboys Stadium. About 1,250 temporary seats were ruled unsafe, forcing hundreds of Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers fans to watch the game from standing-room locations.

Moving forward, the Fans First theme reflects the NFL’s effort to improve and upgrade the Super Bowl experience at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, a city accustomed to playing host to big events such as the NCAA Final Four and Big Ten championships in football and basketball.

The NFL wants to upgrade the Super Bowl experience at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Photo by: Getty Images
The timing could not have been better for the NFL to regroup in downtown Indy after coming out of North Texas
where Super Bowl activities were scattered around the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and a snowstorm compounded the difficulty getting to and from events.

In the winter climate at Indianapolis, most hotels, bars and restaurants supporting the Super Bowl are within walking distance of the stadium. As for the facility itself, sports architect HKS designed Lucas Oil Stadium as a multipurpose venue for the Indianapolis Colts, Final Four and city conventions. The stadium has 45,000 square feet of backstage exhibit space, the most of any NFL facility, according to city officials, with ample room to install temporary structures such as the Anheuser-Busch brewpub built for NFL On Location premium ticket holders.

The Indiana Convention Center connected to the stadium is another key piece of Super Bowl programming. The convention center has grown to 566,600 square feet after a $275 million expansion was completed in 2011. As a result, all official Super Bowl activities, including the NFL Experience and the NFL Tailgate Party, will flow through those two venues, providing the convenience for fans, sponsors and media sorely missing from last year’s event.

The Super Bowl Village outside Lucas Oil Stadium, organized by the local host committee, is the only outdoor event. The attraction features a zip line ride among its interactive features.

By comparison, the 2006 Super Bowl in Detroit, the last time the championship game was held in a cold-weather city, the NFL Experience was at Cobo Hall, about one mile southwest of Ford Field where the game was played. The NFL Tailgate Party was held in a tented complex outdoors, and other Super Bowl parties were at Comerica Park, the Tigers’ ballpark across the street from Ford Field. The NFL had three concessionaires to deal with for that Super Bowl week: Levy Restaurants (Lions), Delaware North Sportservice (Tigers) and Aramark (Cobo Hall).

In Indy, Centerplate serves both the stadium and the convention center. In all aspects of Super Bowl preparations, Indianapolis “is the most compact floor plan for Super Bowl we have ever had,” said Frank Supovitz, the NFL’s senior vice president of events.

Inside Lucas Oil Stadium, the number of temporary seats installed for the Super Bowl includes a 254-seat section erected
This rendering shows the Super Bowl Village, an outdoor attraction that will include a zip line among its interactive features.
Photo by: Indianapolis Host Committee
on the main concourse where 60 percent of all ticket holders will enter the stadium, said Jerry Anderson, a senior principal with Populous working his 27th Super Bowl as the NFL’s chief consultant. Those end zone seats at the top of the lower bowl are themed as the City View Club, part of the On Location all-inclusive ticket package. The temporary club is a smaller version of the South Oasis club at the 2008 Super Bowl in Arizona. Another 5,000 spaces will be carved out with padded chairs on platforms and additional standing-room tickets sold in the suites. Total capacity for Super Bowl will be in the range of 68,000.

SGA Productions is providing the On Location seats for this year’s game, confirmed Mike Fox, stadium director for Lucas Oil Stadium. Last year’s vendor for temporary seating at Cowboys Stadium was Seating Solutions. One group of fans that suffered through a nightmarish game-day experience in Dallas filed a class-action lawsuit against the league.

The Fans First initiative at Indianapolis also is stamped through the NFL’s decision to hire the Disney Institute to educate game-day workers on maximizing the guest experience and an expansion of in-stadium text systems with three new features for the Super Bowl. The first one, for ticket holder communications, has a QR code on the ticket to register for important text messages during Super Bowl week. It is not a two-way system, so ticket holders cannot text back, Supovitz said.

In addition, there are separate inbound and outbound text systems for Super Bowl staff to use to report issues and emergencies. The fan conduct texting system used during the regular season at Lucas Oil Stadium will be activated for the Super Bowl, Supovitz said.

One new wrinkle for this year’s Super Bowl is the annual Media Day circus that is now open to the public. The league put 7,000 tickets on sale for $25 apiece, and the event was near a sellout less than two weeks before the game, Supovitz said. The doors open at 9 a.m. for a 10 a.m. start and ticket holders will be subject to most of the same screening procedures activated for Super Bowl Sunday. They will be confined to the east stands in the lower bowl and will use radios with headphones tuned to the seven podiums for player interviews on the field.

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