This fall, thousands of Indianapolis kids and other guests have experienced the thrill of roaming around on a real NFL practice field, creating lifelong memories that they and their families will always associate with the University of Indianapolis. That’s just one of the side benefits of UIndy’s involvement with the 2012 Super Bowl, sure to be a massive global television event and an unprecedented moment in the spotlight for central Indiana.
As anticipation builds for the big showdown on February 5, the new Athletics & Recreation Center on campus continues to generate recognition and goodwill for the University as the official practice site where the NFC championship team will prepare for the game. The Indianapolis Star and all four Indianapolis TV stations were on hand September 1 for the ARC dedication ceremony, which included remarks from 2012 Indianapolis Super Bowl Host Committee President and CEO Allison Melangton, UIndy student government President Valerie Wilson and UIndy President Beverley Pitts.
Dr. Pitts thanked the many project supporters, including UIndy alumnus and trustee Jerry Throgmartin ’78, executive chairman of H.H. Gregg Appliances. His company’s gift of more than $400,000 helped to complete the center’s 20,000-square-foot concrete support building. Now known as H.H. Gregg Athletics Hall, it features offices, locker rooms, conference rooms, and training areas.
More local and national attention, understandably, has focused on the center’s 90,000-square-foot air-supported dome, built by UIndy for multipurpose athletics and fitness use but transformed by the Host Committee—for one year only—into an indoor football field with state-of-the-art artificial turf. UIndy will install special flooring and a six-lane running track after the turf is removed next year and reinstalled at Arsenal Technical High School as part of the Host Committee’s Super Bowl Legacy Projects.
For now, however, the turf is seeing plenty of action from student organizations and Greyhound athletes, among others. This fall the dome has hosted a range of events, including a Welcome Week mixer for new students, children’s games during the annual campus Safe Trick or Treating night, and intramural football, soccer, and flying-disc competitions. With the NFL’s blessing, the University also was able to extend the opportunity to the broader community through a program dubbed “Game Day Training.” Local youth teams, business groups and other organizations accepted UIndy’s invitation to reserve the facility free of charge for their events.
Meanwhile, University staffers continue their ongoing meetings and discussions with NFL officials and others involved in the Super Bowl effort to iron out details for the new year. UIndy personnel will have to vacate the ARC for a couple weeks in late January and early February as the NFL and the NFC team set up operations—a period during which the facility will be off limits to any outside observers. Producers of the Super Bowl halftime show will use the dome to train the hundreds of volunteers on their crew, and the NFC team is expected to conduct daily practices on the field during the week preceding Super Bowl XLVI. ESPN and the NFL Network are expected to park satellite trucks on campus for the entire week, and that media presence could grow to hundreds of reporters from around the world if the NFC champs decide to conduct their pregame news conferences at UIndy.