INDIANAPOLIS – The NFL wants this year's Super Bowl to go smoothly.
Five months after the ticket debacle in Texas, NFL senior vice president Frank Supovitz came to Indianapolis to examine the Super Bowl host committee's plan. He left town with the impression that things are on track and ready to go despite the uncertainties the lockout poses to the game scheduled for Feb. 5.
"I think any good business or brand wants to put their customers first, and it's something we began to talk about immediately" after the last Super Bowl, he said. "There were some well-documented cases about serving our fans well in Dallas, so that's what this is really about."
Supovitz said the decision to put fans first this year has nothing to do with the lockout that has continually raised questions about whether the city's first Super Bowl will be played as scheduled — or at all.
As NFL owners and players continued negotiations Wednesday, Supovitz continued to insist that the league expected the game to be played on time.
If it is canceled, something that has never happened, Supovitz said publicly for the first time that Indy would assured of getting another Super Bowl if the city wants it. And he said it could also be pushed back a week if the season gets off to a late start.
"We have contingency plans on top of contingency plans, as the commissioner has said," Supovitz said. "Actually, we had a contingency built into the bid. So there is flexibility to hold the game on Feb. 12, if necessary. In terms of additional contingencies, Indianapolis would be able to host the Super Bowl as soon as possible in an unoccupied year."
That could happen as early as 2015.
Next season's game will be played in New Orleans, one of the league's favorite Super Bowl sites. The 2014 game will be played in the Meadowlands, outside New York City.
Supovitz said league officials initially asked Indianapolis to keep two dates open in case the regular season schedule expanded from 16 to 18 games. Since then, the league has asked all cities bidding on the Super Bowl to book two dates.
That would give Indy some flexibility if the lockout delays the start of the season.
So where do negotiations stand?
"I've enjoyed my three days here," Supovitz joked after hearing the question. "I know the commissioner, the players and the owners have been working very hard on trying to get an agreement. Our objective here is to play as scheduled, going back to what was announced in April, and that includes the Super Bowl."
Supovitz spent Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday meeting with everyone from local and federal law enforcement agencies to executives from NBC, the network that will broadcast this season's big game.
From traffic control to street closures, secured areas to weather-related concerns, it was all up for discussion this week.
The goal: Avoiding a repeat of problems that cropped up in Arlington, Texas, such as selling tickets to fans who did not have seats for the game and dealing with inclement weather.
"You think about the ability to handle an event of that size in those conditions, and I would say it was an incredible success," Supovitz said, referring to the game at Cowboys Stadium. "But there were some well-documented things that also happened, and we are focused on making that experience better this time around."
Street closures and secured areas could cause significant traffic congestion downtown, and Supovitz has explained the necessity of having a "lot" of people ready to clear snow or ice from streets and sidewalks.
The plan also calls for the security perimeter to include the city's convention center, which is where the NFL Experience and the NFL Tailgate party will be held.
"Once you're in the convention center, you're through security," Supovitz said.
Supovitz will be back again this fall and return for another walkthrough in December. By then, Super Bowl organizers should have all the kinks worked out.
"Our mantra is put fans first and we are going to have more things for them to do when they come downtown than we've had in the past," Supovitz said. "I would say everyone is incredibly impressed with the dedication of the local committed and this Super Bowl should be very the best it could be."