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February 7 2012 | Latest News
Tuesday, February 7, 2012

By: Jeff Duncan, The Times-Picayune

Indianapolis — The New York Giants weren't the only winners at Super Bowl XLVI. The city of Indianapolis won big, too.

On Monday, as the Giants were planning today's victory parade in the Big Apple, Indy officials put a bow on what was by all accounts the cleanest, most efficient, visitor-friendly Super Bowl in league history.

Things couldn't have gone much better for the fine folks in the Circle City.
Super Bowl Indys Image.jpgJeff Roberson / The Associated PressFootball fans crowd the streets Sunday at Super Bowl Village in Indianapolis, which had 1.105 million visitors over the weekend for Super Bowl XLVI.

Mother Nature offered a week of unseasonably warm sunny days. The city's compact downtown grid, which is roughly the size of the French Quarter, kept all the events safe and within walking distance of each other. And thanks to the army of friendly volunteers on every street corner, crime was almost nonexistent.

Only about 50 arrests for minor violations were reported Sunday, city officials said Monday. No homicides occurred during the 10-day event schedule.

That's impressive, considering the crowd sizes. Indy officials said the Super Bowl Village had 1.105 million visitors and the NFL Experience registered a record 265,039 visitors. A total of 10,429 people rode the wildly popular 800-foot zip line along Capitol Avenue.

Not everything was perfect. While the city's small downtown grid was friendly for pedestrians, it created a traffic-gridlock nightmare. The city's limited downtown hotel capacity of 6,000 hotel rooms forced many folks to lodge outside downtown. And don't get me started on the limited restaurant scene.

"The people were fantastic and genuinely happy that everyone was in town," said Jay Cicero, the CEO of the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation and the executive director of the Super Bowl XLVII host committee. "I think they had prepared themselves for the worst of circumstances in terms of the weather Ñ and when the weather turned out great, they were poised to take full advantage of it. It was a spectacle. Their downtown infrastructure was strained but I think their hospitality was so overwhelming, people didn't mind."

The New Orleans Super Bowl Host Committee now has its work cut out for it to live up XLVI's standards. Expectations were already high for New Orleans' first Super Bowl in 11 years. Indy's success has only raised the bar.

There was plenty to learn for the 50 or so New Orleans Super Bowl staffers who descended upon the Circle City last week to evaluate the event. In addition to the entire host committee, representatives from the Convention & Visitors Bureau, NOPD, City Hall, EMS and the Superdome were on hand to monitor the operation.

They left impressed but confident. In fact, some in the New Orleans contingent sounded downright cocky as they surveyed the madhouse at the Super Bowl XLVI media headquarters.

"They've done a great job, but as nice as this is, this is not New Orleans, OK?" said James Carville, co-chairman of the New Orleans Super Bowl Host Committee. "The people are very nice. It's efficient, and it's got a Midwestern friendliness. Those are things that you expect in this state. É But if they think this is a great job, then hold on horses, it's been too long since 2002."

In the decade since New Orleans last hosted the event, the Super Bowl landscape has changed dramatically. The event has grown exponentially. Competition is fiercer than ever. And the city of New Orleans has experienced, as Carville called it, "that engineering failure" in 2005.

New Orleans officials seem to understand this. Cicero said the committee isn't taking for granted that New Orleans has already hosted the Super Bowl nine times. City officials know there's a lot on the line.

New Orleans can't simply hose down the French Quarter, roll out a few brass bands and think everything is going to be dandy.

"I think it's really important that we show our city off in the best possible way," Carville said. "And I think that you're going to see people come together and try to do that. We know how to handle these things."

The biggest mistake New Orleans can make is to try to duplicate the Indy Super Bowl. This unique American city needs to maintain its distinct charm and eccentricity. The zip line is fun and all Ñ but it's not New Orleans.

"I believe that New Orleans the city is going to be the star," Carville said. "I look at us as this great, plump gorgeous oyster. You might want to put a little bit of your favorite sauce on it. But not too much. The oyster is enough. That's our philosophy."

Carville is right about one thing. America still loves us. That was evident at the Super Bowl XLVI media center last week, where lines snaked daily from the New Orleans Super Bowl Host Committee's booth to partake in the daily free servings of gumbo, jambalaya and king cake.

Indeed, in New Orleans, we've always had the hard parts down. Culture. Entertainment. Ambience. Aesthetics. We've got all of it.

It's the simple stuff that somehow bedevils us. Like cleaning up the place. Or fixing the streets. Or having clean cabs with, say, credit-card service and operable seat belts.

All of these things need to be in line, along with scheduled improvements to Louis Armstrong International Airport. We've got a year to get it done.

"We're going to raise the bar and bring the heat next year," New Orleans Super Bowl host committee point man Rod West said Friday night.

New Orleans officials are confident Super Bowl XLVII is going to be a huge success.

As Mardi Gras, the Final Four and Jazz Fest beckon, New Orleans is on the clock.

It's also on the spot.