INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Bleary-eyed and jubilant, Super Bowl organizers swung into cleanup mode Monday and hoped the rave reviews from fans and journalists over how it pulled off its first Super Bowl will draw the NFL’s showcase event back to town.
From record attendance at Super Bowl festivities to high praise from visitors, celebrities and the league’s top official, organizers declared the game a victory for the city.
“Yesterday was really a grand slam for us,” said Super Bowl Host Committee President Allison Melangton.
Attendance at the game itself was far from a record — Lucas Oil Stadium was filled Sunday night with about 69,000 fans, while last year’s game in the larger Cowboys Stadium in Dallas drew more than 100,000 attendees — but the week of pre-game celebrations drew admiring visitors in droves.
Organizers say more than 1 million people visited the Super Bowl Village over 10 days, including more than 150,000 on game day. The NFL Experience, the annual interactive indoor exhibit of all things football, broke its attendance record with more than 265,000 visitors.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell called the city’s hosting job “fantastic,” praising Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and Mayor Greg Ballard for their efforts to bring the game to the city.
“We can’t say enough about the tremendous work everybody did,” Goodell said. “It was just an extraordinary effort and a great event.”
Judy Battista, a New York Times sports writer among the hundreds leaving town Monday, tweeted: “take a bow, Indy. You were spectacular hosts. Hope the game is back here soon.”
By all accounts, Indianapolis put its best foot forward, winning praise for its cleanliness, friendliness and the compact downtown that made it easy for visitors to walk to events and restaurants.
Celebrities like John Travolta, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones were common sights at St. Elmo Steak House, the century-old landmark. Balmy temperatures made it feel like spring most of the week, sending tens of thousands outside in the shadow of Lucas Oil Stadium. Even Saturday, when temperatures dropped and rain moved in, there were still 200,000 visitors, host committee Chairman Mark Miles said.
Violent crime took a holiday, too. The city’s only homicide over the 10 days of Super Bowl festivities occurred after the game ended.
A memorable nail-biter of a game _ the Giants scored the decisive touchdown with 57 seconds left _ didn’t hurt, either.
ESPN’s Mike Tirico tweeted his praise: “Indy you get an 11 out of 10. Best collective effort by any city hosting any sporting event I’ve attended.”
“Every NFL official and media person I spoke with agreed Indianapolis should become a regular part of Super Bowl rotation,” tweeted Adam Schefter, ESPN’s NFL analyst. “Super job, Indy.”
East Coast fans of the Patriots and Giants appeared equally smitten with “Hoosier hospitality.”