The Olympics are often associated with major building programs and legacy projects, while the Super Bowl is often more remembered for its halftime shows. Indianapolis, host of the 2012 Super Bowl, is building an innovative public space that will connect major sporting, convention, hotel, and retail destinations that could help refocus the city’s downtown.
Currently four lanes with two parking lanes, Georgia Street will be reconfigured into two driving lanes with some parking and a large center median with plantings, kiosks, and street furniture. Beyond the average boulevard reconfiguration, the new streetscape will include innovative sustainability, climate control, and programming features.
A wide boardwalk will run down the center covering a deep rainwater collection channel that will allow water to percolate into the ground rather than being shunted into the sewer system. Overhead, a cantenary system will support a system of adjustable shades that will help mitigate hot Indianapolis summers. Supported by poles that also serve as lampposts, the system will also be used for themed events and can be animated with special event lighting and projectors. “Lighting can really change the experience of a space. It can bring the scale down to the level of the pedestrian,” said Bill Browne, principal of Ratio Architects, the project’s designers.
The redesigned Georgia Street corridor will debut during the Super Bowl, but backers hope it will also be used for other large events: Indianapolis hosts the NCAA basketball finals every five years, along with smaller functions like art fairs, as well as being a daily gathering place for locals and visitors alike. “We want it to be a place where the community and visitors can engage with each other. We want it to be impactful beyond the Super Bowl,” Browne said.
“The downtown area is already very active, so we think this will be a great new enhancement that will be a magnet to draw people south,” said Susan Baughman, senior vice president for hospitality for the 2012 Super Bowl host committee.
Georgia Street is bookended by the Indianapolis Convention Center and Conseco Fieldhouse, home of the Indiana Pacers. The Circle Center mall, a major urban retail destination, connects to the north and extends to the next block. Lucas Oil Stadium, where the Superbowl will be played, is a block and a half to the south.
After developing a more modest scheme for a themed streetscape, Browne and the architects at Ratio conceived of a more ambitious, and sustainable, design. “We realized that it could be much more involved, that we could turn it into a really significant urban redevelopment project,” Browne said. With the help of Indiana’s Department of Transportation, the city secured $8 million in federal Transportation Equity Act funding, which they are matching with $2 million in municipal funds. “No one in Indianapolis has really done a large retention chamber like this before,” he said.
Projects such as this typically take three years, but the project is being fast-tracked for completion in two. “This is a very can-do community,” Browne said. “There’s enough drive. The Super Bowl is an incredible motivator and a catalyst.”