ATLANTA — Indianapolis landed the 2012 Super Bowl with a unique gambit: plans to transform a downtrodden Near-Eastside neighborhood in a project meant to create a lasting legacy.
Leaders of Indianapolis’ bid and Indianapolis Public School students will kick off that revitalization project with a party this afternoon at Harshman Middle School. The school is just down the street from the centerpiece of the bid: a $9 million athletic facility at Tech High School that will be turned over to IPS after the event.
League officials and the team owners cited the practice facility as a key factor in choosing Indianapolis over its competitors for the 2012 game, Houston and the Phoenix area. Indianapolis won on the fourth secret-ballot vote over Phoenix.
“That’s a facility that will be used for many generations by people who play sports,”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. “I think that’s a great thing for the NFL and the community.”
“A lot of times, people think it’s just about big numbers and big money, but it’s also about big hearts, too,” Colts owner Jim Irsay said.
The job ahead, however, will be immense, he said.
“It’s the biggest event in this country, and everybody should be celebrating and taking pride. To pull it off, we’re all going to have to pull together as a community.”
Doing it right, experts said, could mean an economic jolt to the city that can total tens of millions of dollars, if not more. The boost to Indianapolis’ image can bring untold millions more.
Jack Swarbrick, a leader of the bid effort, said the city is ahead of the game in getting ready to host the Super Bowl. He said governmental requirements such as waiving the sales and hotel tax on thousands of league-reserved rooms and providing public safety are already in place.
“We are going to throw one heck of a party,” Swarbrick vowed. “We will turn over our city to the Super Bowl. When you come to our town, you own the joint.”
In Indianapolis, Mayor Greg Ballard said his first goal is to put together the right team to put on the event.
“It’s one thing to sell a project and another thing to execute it,” he said.
Organizers will guard against wasting money.
The Phoenix suburb of Glendale reported that it lost money hosting this year’s Super Bowl. But bid officials said that’s because Glendale paid for security but didn’t have the hotels and restaurants in its immediate area to benefit from an economic influx that instead spread out over the region.
Ballard said he expected the city to have to pay $1 million to $2 million for public safety support but estimated the game would generate an economic impact of at least $100 million and up to $20 million in tax revenue.
For city, state and team officials, winning the right to host one of the world’s premier sporting events is the culmination of an effort that began years ago when the Colts agreed to stay in the city. As part of that deal, Central Indiana counties raised taxes to build what has become a $750 million stadium.
In contrast, the legacy project will be entirely privately funded.
It calls for turning around an area twice the size of Fall Creek Place, a redevelopment project in a 17-square-block area near Downtown that transformed a crime-ridden neighborhood into one that attracted $75 million in private investment.
The city’s plan is to build upon efforts already going on in a neighborhood where 36 percent of the households live below the federal poverty level and that was devastated in June 2006 by the killings of seven family members in a home robbery on Hamilton Avenue.
Since then, the city has established a tax-increment finance district in the area, allowing tax dollars generated in the area to be spent there, and committed $5 million to improve sidewalks, sewers and streets.
“The plan is to make us a neighborhood of choice rather than a neighborhood of last resort,” said Tracy Heaton, president of the Near Eastside Community Organization.
Bid officials said that in coming up with their athletic facility idea, they turned a weakness — not having a second practice facility equal to the Colts’ 56th Street complex — into an opportunity.
Cities hosting past Super Bowls normally tap a major college football program in the area. Since Indianapolis didn’t have one, Swarbrick said they looked at how the game could involve the community and have the greatest impact.
“We have such differences in this community in available facilities for kids,” Swarbrick said. “Now we actually have to make this happen.”
That may not be easy.
The bid committee raised $25 million in private pledges to build the facility, host the parties and turn Downtown into a Super Bowl Village that will draw tens of thousands of visitors despite frigid temperatures.
But it needs another $7 million to fulfill its vision. Without the extra dollars, the facility could be built for less money at Marian College or at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
Tonight, a few hours after the Super Bowl announcement, an athletic event was under way at Tech High school — a baseball game between Tech and Broad Ripple. The 12 people who attended the game were mostly relatives of the players, and all were glad to hear that the Super Bowl would come to Indianapolis and that the old school campus and its neighborhood would benefit.
Peter Parish, 42, a plumber who graduated from the school in 1984 and whose son is Tech catcher Anthony Parish, said improvements to the football field were overdue.
“It’ll make this a first-class facility,” he said.
Aside from legacy projects, Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, hinted at one other reason the league voted for Indianapolis.
“I think Jimmy (Irsay) has been trying a long time to get the game, and finally his number came up.”