Indianapolis turns elsewhere after Super Bowl loss

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Tourism officials in Indianapolis are turning from their unsuccessful bid for the 2018 Super Bowl toward a push to land future major sporting events and conventions.

Local leaders are also looking to keep alive plans for a new downtown hotel and a possible expansion project for USA Football that was included in the Super Bowl package presented to NFL owners last week. The owners awarded the 2018 game to Minneapolis.

Visit Indy spokesman Chris Gahl said the tourism organization is pursuing several possible conventions for early 2018.

“We have 19,000 hotel rooms that were being held. Now we have to fill those,” Gahl told the Indianapolis Business Journal (http://bit.ly/1opwDFw ).

Indianapolis has several other major sports events lined up for the coming years, including the 2015 NCAA men’s basketball Final Four, the 2016 NCAA women’s Final Four and the 2016 Olympic diving trials. The city hosted the 2012 Super Bowl.

Indiana Sports Corp. President Allison Melangton said top priorities are securing future Big Ten basketball tournaments and conference football championship games and preparing bids to host 2020 Olympic trials.

While those won’t replace the economic impact of a Super Bowl, Melangton said landing future Big Ten events “will be a key piece to the puzzle.”

The Super Bowl package included plans for a multi-use facility with an upscale hotel on the Pan Am Plaza near the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium.

Officials for Kite Realty Group, which owns the site, said its interest in developing the site remains strong even without the urgency of an approaching Super Bowl.

“Our main goal is to develop a project that is sustainable long-term,” Kite spokesman Adam Basch said. “Your project has to be a lot more sustainable than a single weekend or week.”

Gahl said downtown hotel occupancy grew from 65 percent in 2010 - the year before the 1,005-room JW Marriott opened - to 70 percent in 2013. The total number of conventions held in Indianapolis during that time grew from 401 to 588.

“We still think a hotel that would be connected to the convention center is best for that site,” Gahl said. “The question is when and how many rooms?”

The city’s Super Bowl plan called for building USA Football a $10 million to $15 million indoor and outdoor facility. It would have been a team practice site during the week of the Super Bowl, but it was to be used as a center for research on concussions and other football-related injuries and their prevention.

Scott Hallenbeck, executive director of the youth football organization, said it still wants to pursue the facility even if plans must be scaled back.

“That was on our drawing board even before it became part of the Super Bowl legacy project,” he said. “We think it’s tremendously important for the future of football and more important for the future health and safety of young people.”

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