INDIANAPOLIS — You already know how the Patriots got to the Super Bowl: by having a top offense all season, which led to the AFC's best record, the top seed in the conference playoffs and the right to home games during a playoff run. New England made the most of that home-field advantage, stomping Denver and surviving against Baltimore to reach its fifth Super Bowl in the last 11 seasons, and seventh overall.
The real question is: how did the Super
Bowl get here? As in, how did the Super Bowl — normally a party
destination in the week leading up to the big game — end up in
Indianapolis, the Midwestern city that used to be known as
"Indiana-No-Place" or "Naptown?"
The road to an Indianapolis Super Bowl
really started back in the 1970s, when former mayor Bill Hudnut pushed
for — and got the city to approve and build — the Hoosier Dome. The
building was funded and billed as an expansion of the Indiana
Convention Center, but its real purpose was to lure an NFL team to the
city, even if none were available. Soon enough, however, the Colts
relocated to Indy, and a massive makeover of the city was underway.
Learn more about the transformation of Downtown Indy in this excellent
documentary by the Indianapolis Star and public television station WFYI.
These days, the Dome has been demolished
to make room for another convention center expansion, and the massive
new area houses the NFL Experience this week. Now, Lucas Oil Stadium
rises high above the Downtown area, just south of the old Dome site.
The rest of Downtown has been transformed into the Super Bowl Village,
with Georgia Street — which ends at the Convention Center at one end
and Banker's Life Fieldhouse (home of the Pacers) — the center of
If you're headed to Indianapolis this
week, here's what one resident says you can expect. Or, if you're
staying at home, what you're missing:
• One of the first things you'll notice
upon arrival at Indy's new, spacious airport is that you'll need a car
to get around. The airport is several miles away from the Downtown
area, on the west side of I-465, the interstate that circles the city.
However, a cab or shuttle to Downtown is likely all the transportation
you'll need if you're staying Downtown. The compact city center is
eminently walkable, and Lucas Oil Stadium is right in the heart of it
all. If you're staying along 465, you'll need help getting downtown
each day, but there are a variety of shuttle and transportation options
to help you out.
• Hardy New Englanders are used to cold
winter weather, and Indy gets its share as well, so be sure to dress
for the weather. Monday's high temperature approached 60 degrees and
the rest of the week is forecast to be mild, for February in the
Midwest, at least. The best advice is just to be prepared. We have a
saying about the weather in Indiana: if you don't like it, just wait 15
• While you're getting dressed, be sure
to throw on some comfortable walking shoes. You'll be doing a lot of it
on Georgia Street and the Super Bowl Village, although if the weather
gets too bad, most of Downtown — from the J.W. Marriott (home of Radio
Row), to the Convention Center and stadium, to an indoor mall and
several other hotels — is linked up through a series of indoor
• There's plenty to do and see in the
Super Bowl Village for free — multiple concert stages, booths and
exhibitions, as well as ESPN's broadcast center for the week at Pan Am
Plaza. I haven't ventured into the paid attractions yet, like the NFL
Experience at the Convention Center, or the 800-foot zipline that runs
over Capital Avenue, but reports on those two attractions are positive.
I did see one woman get stuck on the zipline Saturday afternoon —
dangling about 50 feet above the crowd for around 10 minutes before a
worker was able to "rescue" her. Not sure how that happened, but the
crowd certainly got a kick out of it.
• If you're hungry, Downtown features
more than 150 restaurants in just a few block area, with something for
every palate. Most will be crowded, and it may be hard to get a table —
or find prices you can stomach — at some of the high end places. If
you're looking for places to drink, there are plenty of bars as well.
If you're into craft beer, you will love Indy. There are three
breweries downtown, two more within a five-minute drive and several
more in the metropolitan area. Stop by The Ram (140 S. Illinois St.)
for a plastic 32-ounce "howler" of craft beer to go, or grab Sun King
(sunkingbrewing.com) in cans at any package liquor store. Sun King's
Brewery (135 N. College Ave.) is about a 10-minute walk east of Super
Bowl Village and they have a variety of concerts going on in the
• Looking for celebrities or your
favorite Patriot? Here are the most likely places to catch a celebrity
sighting downtown: St. Elmo Steak House (127 S. Illinois St.),
courtside at Banker's Life Fieldhouse (the Pacers host home games
Tuesday vs. New Jersey and Saturday vs. Orlando), at the recently
re-branded Bud Light Hotel (formerly the Hampton Inn at 105 S. Meridian
St.), or on Monument Circle at the heart of the city. The Patriots are
staying at the University Place Hotel (850 W. Michigan St.), which is a
few blocks north and west of the main downtown area, but no more than a
10-minute walk (starting to see a pattern here?). Start at the J.W.
Marriot (where you might see a celeb or two prowling Radio Row) and
head north on West Street, then left on Michigan, onto the campus of
Indiana-Purdue at Indianapolis.
• It's not all football in Indianapolis.
Hoosiers have a love affair with sports, so be sure to check out some
of the other sporting attractions outside of the NFL. There are, of
course, the Pacers, run by former Celtic great Larry Bird, and Banker's
Life Fieldhouse is a must-see attraction, a virtual museum to the game
in addition to being the best modern basketball arena in the world.
Butler's historic Hinkle Fieldhouse — where "Hoosiers" was filmed — is
just a few minutes north of downtown, and the Bulldogs host games on
Thursday and Saturday. There's also the NCAA Hall of Champions (just
north of the J.W. Marriott at White River State Park) and the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum (4790 W. 16th St.),
which documents the history of the city's biggest sporting event, the
Patriots fans may not feel as welcome as Giants fans at first — after
all, this is a Colts and Manning town, neither of which mix well with
Belichick and Co. — but it's my hope that everyone sees what's known as
"Hoosier Hospitality" as the week goes on. We're proud of our city, but
even more proud of our ability to host a great party. See you soon.
Eric Hartz is a lifelong Hoosier and former editor and
publisher of ColtPower.com, Scout.com's Colts site. E-mail him at
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