Clock ticking on 2022 college football championship in Indianapolis

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(Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini)

INDIANAPOLIS — As the Miami Host Committee of the 2021 College Football Playoff signed off after hosting the Crimson Tide of Alabama vs. the Buckeyes of Ohio State Monday night, a goodbye video featuring glamour shots of palm trees, beaches and swinging nightlife filled the screen at Lucas Oil Stadium, site of the 2022 championship game.

Outside, though the sun was shining, rare for an Indiana mid-winter’s day, downtown Indianapolis still showed the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown and the aftermath of two nights of spring rioting that left behind more than $8 million in financial losses with empty storefronts and debris scattered throughout the Mile Square.

How can downtown Indy hope to compete with the sunshine and sand of Miami for next year’s college football championship fans?

“The way you compete with that is you make it uniquely your own,” said Mark Howell, Chairman of the 2022 Indy CFP Host Committee. “One of the best things about Indianapolis is that all of our events are downtown in a tight championship campus community. When you come to Indianapolis for an event, when you get here from the airport, you’re not back in a cab. You’re walkable to all of the events of the city, so, we can create a very unique atmosphere and there’s gonna be a tremendous number of activities going on.”

When the College Football Playoff arrives in Indianapolis early next January, an expected 100,000 fans will discover a fan fest, free concerts, media day and the type of wintertime downtown football atmosphere not seen here since SB XLVI in 2012.

“We learned so much planning the Super Bowl with the NFL. I think we take those lessons forward, particularly in the area of weather planning,” said Susan Baughman, President of the 2022 Indy CFP Host Committee. “We also found out the crowds will come out if you give them good programming.”

The CFP is expected to have a $150 million economic impact on Indianapolis, a boost to the city’s tourist and event industry sorely needed after the setbacks of 2020.

“I feel like we’ve all had a complicated and difficult year with COVID,” said Baughman, “but I also feel with the time of our event, we also have the gift of time, we have the summer coming, we have the vaccines and I think we have all good intentions for the restaurants, bars and hotels to be fully active again so I’m not concerned about that but I am looking forward to it.”

Visit Indy estimates 40% of the city’s 83,000 hospitality industry employees remain unemployed, but the anticipated nine figure payouts of both the upcoming NCAA Mens Basketball Tournament in March and the CFP in the heart of next winter will spur Indianapolis’ economic rebound.

“Businesses will see business and have to staff up for that and that lends credibility and gives confidence to central Indiana residents who might be scratching their head to say, ‘Should I come downtown? What can I do downtown?’” said Visit Indy Senior Vice President Chris Gahl. “Well, our answer’s very simple:  if the NCAA has confidence in hosting March Madness in its entirety here, if the College Football Playoff is actively planning for next year, yes, you can still come downtown, you can still get away, you can still enjoy the sights and sounds of downtown Indianapolis, much like these two event organizers will put in place here in the coming weeks and now the coming year.”

Gahl said despite the pandemic, Indianapolis has hosted 30 events and more than 50,000 visitors since last summer as the tourism industry struggles to stay afloat.

“Continue to embrace all of the activities that will be taking place downtown,” said Howell, “whether it’s the NCAA tournament that’s going to take place here or more than 200 other events that are gonna take place in the city over the next year, we need the community to come downtown and engage in these events and bring the city back so we are peaking at just the right time.”

The 2022 Indy Host Committee is also putting out the call for two thousand volunteers to serve as ambassadors to help college football fans navigate around the city next January 10th.

To sign up, visit indyfootball2022.com.

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