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Indy out to shed "Naptown" image with Super Bowl

By Steve Keating

INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) - With four Emmy Awards Allison Melangton knows how to produce a winning show, but making sure Indianapolis delivers a memorable Super Bowl party will require a blockbuster game plan.

Once known as "Naptown", Indianapolis hopes to shed its sleepy image when it host America's biggest sporting party on February 5, and as chief executive of the Indianapolis Super Bowl Host Committee it will be Melangton's vision that thousands of visitors and a worldwide TV audience will see.

With one of the golden-winged Emmys, earned as an associate producer of the gymnastics TV coverage at the Beijing Olympics, sitting on a table in her nondescript downtown office, Melangton and her team are reminded it will take a gold medal performance to make sure the Super Bowl is a winner.

"It is interesting marrying the two together (TV producer and event management), I do see myself changing hats now and then," Melangton told Reuters. "As an event planner I want all the logistics to be right for all the media and the TV part of me wants to do the best we can for Indianapolis.

"I want to make sure we have great broadcast platforms to make sure we have great shots of Indianapolis."

With an exciting season ahead and a bitter labor dispute resolved, the host committee has shifted into top gear and will remain there until the Vince Lombardi Trophy is handed to the winning team.

Over the next five months the committee's current full-time staff of 30 will steadily grow and 8,000 volunteers will be trained and brought online.

As the Super Bowl clock in the reception area of the committee's headquarters counts down to kickoff, the downtown core is rattling with jackhammers as the fan zone that will serve as the center of the 10-day festival is constructed.

Much like an Olympics, the Super Bowl has grown beyond a simple game to include cultural and charitable events and leaving a lasting legacy with the host city.

Super Bowl plans in Indianapolis include everything from an East side revitalization project and multi-million dollar community center to Super Cure, which will develop a center for breast cancer testing and awareness.

"I kind of feel like the game is the hub of the wheel," said Melangton, who was part of the bid committee and part of the city's Super Bowl efforts from the beginning. "A lot of that is the choice of the host community.

"The NFL requirements to run the Super Bowl are very logistic orientated and specific to the stadium and taking care of the constituent groups.

"We want to have a strong community connection and not like a circus coming to town and going away."

'FULL STEAM AHEAD'

Perhaps no other NFL city had a greater interest in the lockout that threatened to wipe out the 2011 NFL season and scuttle the years of planning that went into successfully bidding and staging a Super Bowl.

But Melangton and her team paid little attention to the negotiations as they pushed ahead with plans, convinced the season would go off as scheduled.

"We had an internal philosophy which was don't let the distraction become a distraction," said Melangton. "We had to function like that because there is so much to do preparing to host the Super Bowl that we chose early on to say we are going to keep moving full steam ahead no matter what."

The city has embraced the Super Bowl with over 14,000 people signing up to be volunteers, almost double needed.

Everyone from seniors to convicts will contribute to the Super Bowl effort. Scarves worn by volunteers will be knitted by seniors and others then shipped to prisons where inmates will stitch on the Super Bowl patch.

One of the smallest cities to host a Super Bowl, Melangton says Indianapolis is better equipped to handle the winter weather that put a damper on last season's party in Dallas as they are more used to snowy conditions.

Unlike last year's Super Bowl that was spread across North Texas, Indianapolis's will be one of the most compact ever with festivities packed tightly into the downtown core in and around Lucas Oil Stadium."

"Our biggest blessing is a compact downtown and it is also one of our biggest challenges," said Melangton. "We are going to have a lot of people in a congested area and we have to make certain we can still function as a city.

"We have a unique opportunity to create this festival atmosphere that is in pockets in other Super Bowls."

(Editing by Frank Pingue)

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