INDIANAPOLIS — The Super Bowl host committee can finally sack its backup plan for this season’s championship game in Indianapolis.
Less than an hour after the NFLPA’s executive committee and 32 player reps unanimously backed a new 10-year labour deal Monday, committee spokeswoman Dianna Boyce said she expects the league to open up the Feb. 12 date — a weekend the league wanted to keep open in case the Feb. 5 game was delayed — and allow local hoteliers to begin booking rooms.
That means the game will be played on its originally scheduled date.
“We’ve remained confident this would be resolved, and today it’s being resolved,” Boyce said. “It allows us not to have to answer the question about if. Now we know when.”
For more than a year, host committee leaders have downplayed the significance of the NFL’s labour dispute.
Host committee chairman Mark Miles repeatedly said he was not going to let organizers get distracted by concerns over the possibility of lost games, a lost season, a delayed Super Bowl or even the worst-case scenario of losing the Super Bowl for the first time.
Rather, Miles and committee president Allison Melangton kept things running as normal. Last week at a news conference 200 days out from the originally scheduled game, both acknowledged they were sticking to a plan that would have the city ready to host the game Feb. 5.
They spent nearly a full year contending with questions about a backup plan and 4 1/2 months of the actual lockout. At one point, Miles even acknowledged that if the game was lost that the city would host another Super Bowl after the 2014 game.
Yet he never doubted Indy’s first Super Bowl would be played Feb. 5.
“I would say it just ramped up the level of excitement,” Boyce said. “There won’t be any fewer or any more meetings than there were last week because we’ve had our nose to the grindstone from Day 1.”
While word of a settlement brought no sense of relief to committee officials, it will help local hotels. Miles told reporters last week he planned on speaking to league officials within hours of a settlement and would begin notifying hoteliers soon afterward that they could begin rebooking rooms for the second weekend. Boyce said that call was expected to take place Monday night or Tuesday.
The decision would give Indianapolis yet another potentially profitable weekend date in February.
Some estimate that the Super Bowl alone will pump about $400 million into the city, and three other conventions are already booked for the final two weekends of the month. The conventions are projected to bring in about $40 million.
And with Feb. 12 now open, city officials are already laying the groundwork to fill the weekend with another big event.
“We will be aggressively targeting conventions and smaller groups to come in, and that’s not a typical thing we do every single day,” said Chris Gahl, spokesman for the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association. “But now that we have that opening, we will work hard to fill it.”
Gahl said it may be too late to sign another big convention, but the city would make stronger efforts to attract more leisure business and other events looking for options on short notice.
For Super Bowl planners, things will only get busier.
Last week, turf was laid down at the new practice facility at the University of Indianapolis, which will be used by the NFC representative. The AFC team will practice at the Colts complex on the city’s west side.
Mayor Greg Ballard has acknowledged his primary job will be finishing the road projects downtown and getting salt trucks ready if there is snow, ice or a mixture of winter precipitation in Indy during Super Bowl week. Organizers already have more than 12,000 volunteers ready to work Super Bowl events and are trying to put the finishing touches on everything from housing redevelopment projects to the Super Scarves campaign.
The biggest concern, though, was over hotels and other venues that had two keep two weekends open for the price of one. Now that there’s a settlement, all that will change.
“We’re ecstatic that there’s a resolution, that our tourism community can work toward the Feb. 5th date, that we can roll out the red carpet and that Indianapolis will have the game,” Gahl said. “From our hotel partners to venues that host events, it’s a relief to know that the season is happening and Indianapolis will host the Super Bowl.”