Indianapolis is getting another chance to make its Super Bowl sales pitch.
On Tuesday, less than two years after hosting one of the smoother title games in recent history, NFL owners made Indianapolis one of three finalists to host the 2018 Super Bowl. Minneapolis and New Orleans also made the cut.
Shortly after the announcement, members of Indy's bid committee acknowledged the competition will be tough. Minnesota is building a $975 million stadium that is scheduled to open in 2016, and New Orleans is trying to get the game as part of the 300th anniversary celebration of the city's founding.
The owners like to play in the new, larger stadiums, and New Orleans has hosted 10 Super Bowls, including last season's big game.
But Indy has something else — rave reviews from its last NFL championship, which included drawing 1.1 million people to the downtown Super Bowl village, the first of its kind.
"We think we can pull it off," said Cathy Langham, the committee's vice chair. "We've got the right community, the right city, the right state and corporate base and we think all of that will help us win."
They also have a game plan that has worked before.
Before getting the 2012 game, the bid committee collected $25 million in private funding. This time, it's trying to raise $30 million. Langham said the committee had already been fielding phone calls from business owners willing to help again and potentially new donors, too.
The finalists will make a formal proposal at the May owners' meetings. A final vote will be held in May.
What else could be in the city's proposal?
For now, that's a secret.
Clearly, though, the committee plans to include, and perhaps improve, on some of the unique features from 2012, such as the zip line downtown, the Super Bowl village and the family environment that helped create the buzz in Indy.
But organizers are not going to use the same playbook.
"We want this Super Bowl to be new and different," Langham said. "We had a great Super Bowl the last time and we will repeat some of those things, maybe, but we want new and different things at this Super Bowl."
The biggest obstacle for Indy is the one it has no control over — weather.
NFL officials usually opt to play the game at warm weather sites or in domes, though that has not always created perfect conditions, either. Atlanta and Dallas were hit by ice storms during Super Bowl week, the Colts and Bears played in a driving rainstorm at Miami in February 2007 and last year, New Orleans had the game-day power outage.
Indy officials spent countless hours creating backup plans for inclement weather in 2012, but it proved unnecessary because it was sunny and unseasonably warm most of the week.
Colts owner Jim Irsay told reporters in Washington that the owners' decision proved Indy was a "unique" city that could pull off a "special" Super Bowl again.
Around the city and state, government officials offered their support.
"It's exciting to hear that the NFL selected Indianapolis as one of the top three finalists," Gov. Mike Pence said. "Indiana far surpassed expectations in 2012, and we look forward to submitting another promising bid to showcase once again Hoosier hospitality and all that Indiana has to offer."
Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard said: "Indy's reputation for hosting great events is unmatched. I have no doubt our team will put forth an exciting plan to host another Super Bowl that will make the NFL, its owners and football fans around the world very proud."
All they have to do now is come up with the right game plan.
"I would say Indy raised the bar in 2012," said David Lewis, another vice chair on the bid committee. "Now we have to meet that bar and the cities we're competing against have hosted a total of 11 Super Bowls between them."
Author: MICHAEL MAROT, AP Sports Writer
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org