The day was hot and muggy with showers in the morning and the field of Lucas Oil Stadium was covered with dirt for this weekend’s Monster Jam 2021, but in a stadium conference room below ground level, event planners and contractors were asking each other about plowing snow from parking lots outside of the Indiana Convention Center and providing porta johns for bus drivers who will be transporting players back and forth for the 2022 College Football Playoff National Championship next January 10th in Indianapolis.
“I think we have sixty groups who are in town for these meetings over the last four days,” said Susan Baughman, 2022 Indy CFP Host Committee President. “We’re drilling down on everything from space use to public safety, transportation and all the details of the event.”
When the next college football national champion is crowned on the 50-yard line of Lucas Oil Stadium early next year, Indianapolis will have hosted its third large profile sporting event in less than 12 months coming fresh off the COVID-19 pandemic which rocked the city’s sports and tourism industries in 2020.
“Indianapolis and Indiana have earned the right put on these three major sporting events in a single year,” said Mark Howell, Board Chair of the Host Committee. “The economic impact of just this event itself is $150 million and those $150 million will go a long way to creating tailwinds which will benefit us going into the future.”
While the Indianapolis tourism industry will be boosted by the arrival of 100,000 college football fans at a time when post-Christmas spending and visiting in mid-winter typically hits a downtown slump even in the best of years, other small businesses and contractors will benefit from providing the services the CFP will need to stage its championship game.
“There are hundreds of businesses that will be positively impacted as vendors associated with this event,” said Howell. “We will be able to show off Indiana and Indianapolis in ways that will produce longer term economic impact that is a little bit harder to measure.”
Visit Indy estimated that Indianapolis benefitted from the equivalent of $25 million in free marketing and branding as a result of hosting the NCAA Mens’ Basketball Tournament and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway recently welcomed in excess of 200,000 fans to the largest single event since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of last year.
“People say you couldn’t have the budget to buy the advertising you get from a big-time event like the college football playoff,” said Bill Hancock, Executive Director of CFP who, as a former top NCAA official, saw firsthand how Indianapolis can host large sporting events typically attracted to larger warm weather cities. “It is fun to take it to a different area and that was part of our thinking when we said, ‘Let’s go to Indianapolis. Let’s introduce college football, top level college football, national college football to a new city and let’s introduce a new city to our level of college football.’”
Indianapolis’ success in staging the first cold weather Super Bowl in three decades in 2012 proved to planners that fears of falling temperatures should not be an obstacle to taking a wintertime football championship to the Midwest.
“I think our Super Bowl experience gave us a very good plan to build on. We pulled that out. We’re using that playbook,” said Baughman. “You kind of like to pull out your coat and tailgate so I think it’s a perfect place for it.”
Baughman said officials have been reaching out to the downtown dining industry, telling restauranteurs what to expect in anticipation they will have enough help on hand to meet the demand for diners.
One year after riots rocked downtown and just days after public mask mandates to curb the spread of COVID-19 were lifted, Indianapolis is in the midst of a post-pandemic economic comeback.
“We may have been knocked,” said Howell, “but we weren’t knocked down, and came back from that.”