The main thing that I think is interesting about CFP coming here is, we are the first “cold-weather” city that they’ve been to. I think we can show them how a northern city, a Midwestern city, can be really effective at having an exciting event.
The other thing, we’re the first city that’s hosting that doesn’t host a bowl. There are six bowl games that rotate every year and those are the ones that play into the national championship. The winners of the Cotton Bowl and Orange Bowl are who comes to Indy. Every other city is in that rotation of six bowls, and we’re the only one that doesn’t have a bowl that got invited to host. I feel like we have a lot to prove, and I feel like we absolutely will do that and provide a playoff-perfect downtown city.
We have. I would call it phased planning. We first started by forming our board and our executive committee and then building out our host committee. We couldn’t do many of the things until we got further along. But what we were able to get started on really early was brainstorming and ideation of what special things we could do around the event while we have the gift of time. We were also able to start on our legacy programming, which was all about teachers. The mission of the CFP Foundation is all centered around opportunities for teachers by way of rewards and recognition, lifting up the profession of teaching, and professional development opportunities and resources for their classroom and them personally.
We’re working with the event owners out of Irving, Texas. We’re responsible for everything from airport operations, how we handle our downtown working with public safety for traffic. We run a courtesy-car program. We’ve got a huge volunteer program we’re going to run, so we’ve got to recruit volunteers and do an orientation program to get them trained and then plan for management of them on site during the championship. We contracted the hotels. We’re working on game operations at Lucas Oil Stadium, and we’re planning a really cool fan opportunity outside in downtown Indianapolis called Championship Campus. Our focus is for the best experience of athletes and their team services. We’re also working with the teachers’ program and activating downtown with different elements with businesses in the area. We’ve got statewide programs we’re doing. It’s really pretty far-reaching.
The Championship Campus is open and free to the public. We’re going to have Fan Central, which is a fan fest inside the Indiana Convention Center Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. It’s a huge interactive, built for all ages, but it will be a great family opportunity.
We have free concerts that are going to take place on Monument Circle. And that’s going to be really exciting, the way that will be paired with the 3-D light show that happens downtown. ESPN is going to do a huge outdoor broadcast booth like you see on [College] GameDay. Everyone can come down and get their chance to be on television.
The other free fan event happens on Saturday morning. It’s Media Day, an insider’s look at what you see on ESPN. You can bring your friends and family, go into Media Day, and get an in-house radio that you can put on and pick which quarterback or coach you want to listen to while they do their interviews.
It’s a ticketed event, which the funds from this event all go toward the teachers’ program of the CFP Foundation. The fundraising that occurs through that event will actually be benefiting Indiana teachers specifically. It’s a great foodie event with food and drink, artists, entertainment; it will be really fun. We’re going to put our own Indy flair in this event so I think it’s going to be really appealing for people in Indianapolis and the region to attend.
The other fundraising event that’s cool is a 5K that you can run or walk. That starts in the fan fest and has a route around the city. Taste and the 5K are on Sunday. The Taste will be in the evening at the Indiana State Museum.
When we were having that early year to figure out what direction we wanted to go with our legacy, we had an advisory committee with people involved with education and schools across the state that helped guide us and figure out how could we use this platform to be beneficial for teachers. What they came up with was some version of online learning, best practices and standards. Then we started into COVID and schools being closed and that kind of thing. There was a group trying to pull together money to help institute the internet where it wasn’t viable for kids trying to do at-home learning. We got involved with that group, and we were able to put in additional money and create this learning lab. It has best practices for teachers. It has idea sparks or lesson plans. They have 24-hour human assistance, and they also have help for parents and at-home helpers for students trying to school from home. It ended up being very timely just because of what was going on.
Since then, it’s continued to develop, and it’s becoming a long-term resource being adopted and maintained through the Indiana Department of Education. The Indiana Learning Lab, we hope, is going to have a lasting legacy impact and also house of a lot of their resources for teachers. We’re really excited that it seems it has a longer life than what we even imagined.
The Teach Indy program is a little different. It’s a program run through the Mind Trust, a local nonprofit. The money that we’ve invested in the Teach Indy program goes to recruiting minority teachers in the city center of Indianapolis and trying to make sure that classrooms have representation that reflects their student base. And through our programming with the Mind Trust, we’ve been able to provide different professional development opportunities for teachers.
I think there are going to be some great surprises. But I think it’s going to be awesome. Downtown Indy is perfect for these events because you can literally come down from the airport or park your car and walk everywhere you want to go and not miss anything. You can have great food; you can go to all the fan events and experience these special festival elements and don’t have to drive a car. I think these concerts and some of these special events are going to be really great for people to not only be outside and mix and mingle, but feel really proud of the city and the image that we present around the world.
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