Someone immersed in a crash diet to make a smashing impression at a class reunion may get the desired effect.
But are those former schoolmates seeing the real person? Who was that person three months ago? Who will that person be three months into the future? Three years from now? Or is the image in front of the reunion-goers merely an ideal, grand but temporary and unsustainable?
What if every day was Super Bowl Sunday for Indianapolis and the Hoosier state? What if “street teams” of local people always greeted visitors with tips on how to find parking, hotels, restaurants and fun stuff to do? What if we routinely worked four years ahead, committing significant amounts of public and private resources to improve bridges, sidewalks, roads and parks, and reviving blighted neighborhoods?
An estimated 110 million television viewers around the world will watch the Super Bowl XLVI festivities on Feb. 5. Another 150,000 will come to Indianapolis for the weekend, where the downtown “Super Bowl Village” along Georgia Street treats pedestrians with massive TV screens and live music, for free. Of that group, 63,000 will actually sit inside Lucas Oil Stadium at game time to see the NFL’s finest square off for football’s greatest prize — the Lombardi Trophy and the label “world champions.”
The Indianapolis and Indiana the outside world sees will be impressive.
The capital city has been working toward this moment since 2008, and it shows. Eateries and clubs are primed for action. No burned-out letters on the neon lights. Give Indy credit — it bid to host pro sports’ most hyped event, landed that opportunity, absorbed the extensive costs of preparation ($187 million to upgrade infrastructure, and $4 million for added police security, for example), and then worked steadily, as Hoosiers do, to deliver on that promise. To paraphrase Pvt. Russell Ziskey in the movie “Stripes,” Indy’s in good shape, walking tall, looking good.
Some of the improvements will benefit Indianapolis for years, even decades. Ideally, the commitment and sense of urgency to implement those changes for this one-time event will last for years and decades, too. If so, Hoosiers will prove that it doesn’t take a Super Bowl to bring out our best and that Indiana is a good place to be, as a guest or a citizen.
Many outsiders still need convincing.
“The rest of the country seems to have a pretty low expectation for Indiana as a whole, and Indianapolis in particular, going back to — and I hate to have to say it — the old Nap-Town days,” said Kimberly Donahue, who teaches marketing and management at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business in Indianapolis. (The moniker suggested Indy was a great place to take a nap. Others derisively called it “India-no-place.”)
The reputation began to change in the 1980s and ’90s, with the construction of the Hoosier Dome, the relocation of the Colts to Indianapolis, and the town’s evolution into a stage for high-profile sporting events such as the Pan-Am Games, NCAA basketball and track championships, and Big Ten Conference hoops tourneys. A walkable downtown atmosphere developed around the Dome (and then its successor, Lucas Oil Stadium), Conseco (now Bankers Life) Fieldhouse (home of the Indiana Pacers), Victory Field (the Indianapolis Indians’ ballpark), and the now-expanded Convention Center.
The AFC champion team (either New England or Baltimore) will stay on the IUPUI campus, and “could walk to Lucas Oil Stadium, if they wanted to,” Donahue said.
Donahue, a former Chicago and Ohio resident, has lived in Indianapolis for 20 years and appreciates its amenities. “I honestly believe, if there is any day I want to do something, I can find something fun to do,” she said, “and I’m never lacking for options.”
That easy-access downtown distinguishes Indy from most of the previous Super Bowl cities. It is the real Indianapolis, and has been for years.
Donahue recalled a piece written by a Los Angeles Times travel correspondent, who was sent last year — much to his displeasure — to check out the host city for Super Bowl XLVI. “And when he got here, he just fell in love with the city,” she said. “And the only bad thing he could say was, Hoosiers aren’t good at giving directions.” (The “street team,” with its 8,300 volunteers to personally welcome newcomers in the 10 days leading up to the game, should ease that complaint.)
Of course, that crew is not permanent. The tents filled with music and food will pull up stakes, too.
But the $12-million revitalization of the Georgia Street corridor — the heart of “Super Bowl Village” — won’t disappear.
“These are going to be noticeable changes,” said Kyle Anderson, an economist at the Kelley School.
Downtown Indy may have to grow as a residential destination to take full advantage of the upgrades. As of now, only 22,000 people live in that central district, according to Anderson’s calculations. Unless that population grows, some of the restaurants and nightspots that have opened downtown since the Super Bowl site selection in 2008 may not survive long after Feb. 5. The relatively low concentration of downtown residents “makes it hard to sustain a huge number of restaurants,” Anderson said.
“I think, over the next six months to a year, you’re going to see some restaurants shut down,” he added.
One enduring effect of the Super Bowl will be an enhanced self-esteem for Hoosiers. The incoming fans will hail from either the East Coast (Baltimore, New England or the New York Giants) or the West Coast (San Francisco). Some know little about Indiana or the Midwest, and likely suspect this is a land of the backward, the slow-moving, and the slow-thinking. Those of us who call this home know better, and figure this is the chance to prove it.
Confidence could be the most positive after-effect, said Donahue, a former Ohio and Chicago resident who’s called Indy home for the past 20 years. Like a paved road or a repainted shopfront, civic pride needs maintenance, too.
“A sense of pride is only going to last a fixed period of time, unless the people of Indianapolis and Indiana keep it up,” she said.
Mark Bennett can be reached at (812) 231-4377 or email@example.com.
Someone immersed in a crash diet to make a smashing impression at a class reunion may get the desired effect.
- Mark Bennett Opinion
MARK BENNETT: Dad-to-dad advice
Giving unsolicited advice is like offering somebody else your toothbrush, because it’s worked so well for you.
MARK BENNETT: The road ahead
An invisible force shield — just like those found in comic books — formed a barrier between us and the edge of that road.
MARK BENNETT: Generational ‘Catch 22’
Baby Boomers’ long run of cultural dominance gradually gives way to America’s 22-year-olds
Transformative changes: Five ways to strengthen Terre Haute’s ‘festival park’
Without realizing it, the crowds walking through Fairbanks Park during this week’s Banks of the Wabash Festival are paying tribute to two eras of visionaries.
MARK BENNETT: Mother of all missed opportunities
So often, we entrust mothers with so much. They draw duty as mediators when there’s a problem at school, healers when pain hits, and self-sacrificers willing to put the needs of their families ahead of their own. Not perfect, but perfectly equipped, thank God, to be the glue that holds things together. Mother’s Day offers an ideal moment to remember those qualities.
MARK BENNETT: Low, and OK with it
The little sticker in the upper-left corner of a vehicle’s windshield reminds us — three months in advance — when to get an oil change.
MARK BENNETT: Telling a difficult story
Arthur Feinsod struggled to vocalize lines from his own play, “Coming to See Aunt Sophie.”
MARK BENNETT: It’s (Not) So Easy
Arctic air bled into the Wabash Avenue post-hippie-era diner-pub every time the wooden door swung open.
MARK BENNETT: Dues Paid, change under way
In the 1940s, Dorothy Jerse sat in a University of Illinois accounting class, listening to a guest speaker.
MARK BENNETT: All aboard!
Find me a George Mason University basketball T-shirt in Indiana.
MARK BENNETT: New public-access point begins quest to create more spots to experience river
Fairness holds no power over the Wabash River.
MARK BENNETT: People spaces
Demolition machinery chipped away at the buildings on the 500 block of Wabash Avenue. I stood and watched awhile, last week. By July 2015, a new $18.7-million structure will replace those relics.
MARK BENNETT: Blessings of a long, cold, snowy winter
As spring, summer arrive, Hoosiers will appreciate icy months (well, maybe a little)
MARK BENNETT: Healing Indiana’s Achilles’ heel
Illinois served as the easy target.
At that moment.
MARK BENNETT: Yeah, yeah, yeah... For some grownups, first impression not so fab
We’re pretty smart here in middle America.
Our DNA carries the common-sense chromosome. From birth, Midwestern culture begins honing us into the most rational and perceptive of human beings. Sure, our prisons are full, but generally, we mean well. And we’re wise.
MARK BENNETT: Remembering the less glitzy days on Manning’s road to the Super Bowl
A blur of memories.
They’ll flicker fast and furious tonight, like a spinning Rolodex, when Peyton Manning runs onto the MetLife Stadium turf in Jersey City, as a Denver Bronco, playing for a Super Bowl ring against the Seattle Seahawks. Most Hauteans will experience flashbacks, too.
MARK BENNETT: A lengthening climb
The American economy is improving.
Confidence has risen since the government shutdown by the polarized Congress last fall. Indicators in various sectors show promise.
MARK BENNETT: Tackling entrenched economic problems could brighten local forecast
Without a DeLorean, there’s no going back to 1995.
MARK BENNETT: What is Indiana’s image in the eyes of the world?
A bus pulled up to the curb near the riverfront in downtown Chicago. An unusual advertisement was painted on its side.
Raising the bar
Around coffeeshops, kitchen tables and office watercoolers, Hoosiers have cussed and discussed the federal health care law.
MARK BENNETT: ABA’s record proves Bobby Leonard’s a legit Hall of Famer
Bobby Leonard symbolized the feisty competitive flair of the old ABA.
MARK BENNETT: Letter from coach’s young daughter put pro sports, Christmas in perspective
Most of us sympathize with people forced to work on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
That list is growing, now that Black Friday has morphed into Black Thursday, causing retail employees to join doctors, nurses, hospital staffers, police, firefighters, emergency responders, military members, convenience store clerks, road crews and media to spend holidays at work. Ideally, we’ll feel gratitude when we require their services on those special days. Too often, their sacrificed time gets taken for granted.
Terry Leonard wanted the executives to remember her dad, and their family, at Christmastime.
And, amazingly, they listened.
MARK BENNETT: A degree of success
Determination to get that diploma Larry Bird’s deepest bond with fellow ISU alums, students
MARK BENNETT: Brad Fenton and friends set dominos in motion to make Larry Bird statue a reality
The idea has been out there for awhile, floating.
Locals in the 1980s, ’90s and 2000s would say, “They need to put up a statue of Larry Bird. I mean, one of the all-time greatest basketball players played right here in Terre Haute at Indiana State University.”
MARK BENNETT: Next chapter set to begin
Use the classic Tommy Tutone song to memorize the following number …
MARK BENNETT: One-ring blues?
Minutes before kickoff tonight, the Lucas Oil Stadium tech crew should play Sam Cooke’s classic, “(What a) Wonderful World” over the sound system.
MARK BENNETT: At Peace in Parke County
Northwestern Parke County — The stream merely trickles beneath Mill Creek Bridge. It’s just a few inches deep, but the water keeps moving.
MARK BENNETT: Terre Haute native Tommy John belongs in Cooperstown for pitching like a Hall of Famer
Few players in history left a greater impact on baseball than Tommy John.
And he did so through his performance on the field.
MARK BENNETT: Remotely confused
“Must See TV,” where have you gone?
MARK BENNETT: Popularity Contest: Congress does little to improve its standing with Americans
The members of Congress ardently resisting the Affordable Care Act emphasize its unpopularity.
- More Mark Bennett Opinion Headlines
- MARK BENNETT: Dad-to-dad advice