SBJ/April 9-15, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL eyes public 'zone' for future Super Bowls

The NFL wants to capitalize on the success of this year’s Super Bowl in Indianapolis by creating zones in future host cities like the one that made this past season’s game so popular.

The initiative means that Super Bowl hosts, in addition to hosting the game, will have to do more than just stage a series of events and parties at destinations and hot spots across a city’s wide geographic area. Instead, a host would have to create a localized area of Super Bowl activities, akin to an Olympic village.

“It would be a zone where Super Bowl lives,” said Frank Supovitz, NFL senior vice president of events. What Supovitz said he envisions is one area where fans can come and know they will enjoy the Super Bowl atmosphere as opposed to past Super Bowls where events were often scattered and unconnected. It could also potentially be an area to showcase sponsors and partners. Having prospective Super Bowl hosts outline their plans for such areas could become part of the bidding process for the game.

And the now-famous zip lines in Indianapolis that became the centerpiece of Super Bowl week this year? While Supovitz joked about a zip line over the Mississippi River next year in New Orleans, he said it would be safe to assume an entertainment spectacle like that would now be expected as part of future Super Bowls. New Orleans, because of its compact geography, may be best able to handle such requirements of upcoming Super Bowls. Dennis Lauscha, the New Orleans Saints’ executive vice president and chief financial officer, said the team is constantly in touch with the league about next year’s game.

A spokeswoman for the New York Super Bowl host committee said no discussions at this point have occurred between the NFL and New York about a Super Bowl zone for that game, in 2014.

The inner core of Indianapolis was blocked from traffic and set up as a winter village, though no snow fell for the Feb. 5 game. Restaurants, bars and musical acts all spilled onto the street, often with people flying above on a zip line. Sponsors received significant branding, with among other placements Bud Light bottles seemingly in every pedestrian’s hand.

It was a stark contrast to prior Super Bowl settings, which lacked a unified feel other than Super Bowl branding hanging from lamp posts and buildings. In such cases, the only places where everyone in town for the event ever comes together are the parking lots at and around the stadium site.

While host cities with larger stadiums can deliver bigger financial returns to the NFL than this year’s game at Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis was widely viewed as success because of the way it brought most of the action into the designated, Super Bowl-themed area.

How future Super Bowl hosts like New York — whose broad area is reflected by an event logo that features a bridge connecting New York and New Jersey — or Phoenix, host in 2015, can create a Super Bowl zone is uncertain. Last year’s North Texas Super Bowl, for example, sold itself as a massive geographic party stretching from Fort Worth to Dallas, though ice and snow storms disrupted those plans.

“The greatest thing about Super Bowl is going from year to year and adding on in each city to make the game grow and develop,” said Jim Steeg, Supovitz’s predecessor and now a consultant.

But the NFL may be taking a step away from that page now and insisting that what made Indianapolis special be present at all Super Bowls, though doing so may prove to be a challenge.

Indianapolis is a small, Midwestern city that has hosted major sporting events before, like the Pan American Games and NCAA Final Fours, so it was particularly well-suited to create a few-block area, cordoned off from traffic, full of Super Bowl events. Also, the chairman of the host committee for this year’s Super Bowl, Mark Miles, was different from past host committee chairmen in that his background is in international sports, having been CEO of the ATP Tour for 16 years. That exposed him to many different ways of staging mega events, with a pronounced emphasis on the community found in Olympic-style villages.

Of course, Indianapolis also had a hotel room shortage, something larger hosts like New York and Arizona almost surely will not encounter.
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