Indianapolis officials expect more than 100,000 college football fans to converge on the city as several days of festivities build toward Monday night’s national championship game between Georgia and Alabama.

“Our goal is that when all of these great fans from Georgia and Alabama leave Indianapolis, they’ll tell people what a phenomenal experience they had while they were here,” said Mark Howell, chairman of the board of the 2022 Indianapolis Host Committee, which is working with the College Football Playoff organization to stage the championship game and ancillary events.

A series of activities will begin Saturday in downtown Indianapolis, including an indoor fan festival and free outdoor concerts. From signs and banners to elaborate lighting displays, the city will be cast as the epicenter of college football, at least for a few days.

“The world will be focused on Indianapolis this weekend,” said Joe Hogsett, the city’s mayor.

Indianapolis has a deep history of hosting marquee sports events – college basketball’s men’s Final Four on eight occasions, the 2012 Super Bowl and of course the annual Indianapolis 500 auto race – but this is the first time college football’s national championship will be decided in the city.

“People think of Indiana as a basketball state, which we are, but I think there’s an underappreciation of the knowledge and enthusiasm of the fan base for football,” Howell said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The College Football Playoff chose Indianapolis for this season’s championship game as part of its philosophy of spreading the event around the country. The CFP awarded its first 10 title games to 10 different cities: Arlington, Texas, in January 2015, Glendale, Ariz., in 2016, Tampa in 2017, Atlanta in 2018, Santa Clara, Calif., in 2019, New Orleans in 2020, Miami in 2021, Indianapolis in 2022, Los Angeles in 2023 and Houston in 2024.

Indianapolis’ turn comes amid a surge in COVID-19 cases because of the omicron variant. Playoff and city officials urged at a briefing this week that attendees should take precautions.

“Our primary concern is making sure visitors and residents alike can participate in these festivities safely,” Hogsett said. “… Remember to practice the basics: Get your vaccine, wear a mask whenever you’re indoors, wash your hands frequently, and if you’re not feeling well, stay home, please stay home.”

Howell told the AJC: “We’ll strongly encourage mask wearing (by fans), but we won’t mandate it. All of our staff and all of our 2,000 volunteers, anyone associated with the event, will be masked.”

He has seen no indication that the virus will suppress attendance.

“There has been incredibly high demand for tickets and for hotels,” Howell said. “Our suites are sold, the game is going to be sold out, the block of hotel rooms has been filled. These are schools with huge, strong fan bases with lots of enthusiasm. We don’t anticipate attendance and engagement are going to be negatively impacted.”

Credit: 2022 Indy Host Committee

Credit: 2022 Indy Host Committee

If the estimate of 100,000-plus visitors proves accurate, that will include tens of thousands of fans who don’t have tickets to the game.

“We’re anticipating a lot of people from central Indiana are going to want to come down and be a part of the fun, even though they’re not going to be able to attend the game,” Howell said.

Of those with tickets to the game, the majority are Georgia fans, according to a projection by secondary ticket marketplace Vivid Seats. The company’s “fan forecast” algorithm projects 62% of current ticket holders are Georgia fans and 38% are Alabama fans, according to spokesman Stephen Spiewak.

Arriving fans can brace for cold weather. Hogsett, the Indianapolis mayor, said winter weather preparations are underway “in case mother nature dials up a blitz.”

According to at mid-day Thursday, the Indianapolis forecast called for a high of 20 degrees and a low of 15 on Friday, a high of 41 and a low of 37 on Saturday, a high of 41 and a low of 13 on Sunday and a high of 24 and a low of 11 on Monday. The forecast also showed a chance of precipitation over the weekend.

“As I tell people, January is a cold month in Indianapolis,” Howell said. “We’re expecting kind of seasonably cold weather, but we’re optimistic on precipitation.”

Monday night’s game is scheduled to be played indoors at Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts, with the stadium’s retractable roof closed.

Howell said the host committee “purposely committed” to holding a majority of the ancillary events outdoors to “create a safer environment naturally” amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Indianapolis boasts one of the same assets as Atlanta in recruiting marquee sports events: The venues for the game and related events are in walkable proximity to one another in the downtown area.

“Our goal is that when people come in from the airport and arrive at their (downtown) hotels, three or four days later will be the next time they’ll have to get in a vehicle to go anywhere,” Howell said.

This weekend’s festivities will include performances, weather permitting, by the international aerial dance group Bandaloop on Saturday and Sunday nights. Six vertical dancers are slated to descend Indianapolis’ tallest building, from the 49th floor to the 23rd, between acts at the “AT&T Playoff Playlist Live” concert series.

“We have performed all over the world from the Artic to the Equator, on skyscrapers, iconic bridges and cliff formations, and we are looking forward to this special performance in Indianapolis to celebrate some of the most talented college athletes in the country,” Bandaloop producer Thomas Cavanagh said in a statement.

Indianapolis’ plans also include 500-drone light shows Saturday and Sunday nights in the downtown area. The shows will feature aerial imagery of team helmets, mascots, a countdown-to-kickoff clock and simulated fireworks.

The host committee has lofty goals for the next few days, regardless of what happens on the field Monday night.

“This is only the eighth CFP championship, so it is an event very much in its infancy,” Howell said. “We want to take this opportunity to increase the expectations of what the event should be.”

Credit: 2022 Indy Host Committee

Credit: 2022 Indy Host Committee


If you’re headed to the College Football Playoff Championship game, here’s a schedule of events in downtown Indianapolis over the coming days:

-- Playoff Fan Central, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday at the Indiana Convention Center: The 200,000-square-foot interactive fan festival will include games, youth sports clinics, pep rallies and exhibits celebrating college football and its history.

-- AT&T Playoff Playlist Live, 5-11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday on Monument Circle: A free outdoor concert series will feature performances by Doja Cat and AJR on Saturday and Twenty One Pilots and Ava Max on Sunday.

-- Drone light shows, approximately 6:15 p.m. Saturday and Sunday: The host committee said fans should be able to see the shows from much of the downtown area.

-- Extra Yard 5K, 10 a.m. Sunday: Starting at the Indiana Convention Center, this is a 3.1-mile run/walk through downtown streets.

-- Taste of the Championship, 5-8 p.m. Sunday at the Indiana State Museum: A premium dining experience and fundraising event with gourmet food by local chefs.

-- Allstate Championship Tailgate, noon-5 p.m. Monday on Monument Circle: This pregame gathering space for fans will feature performances on stage by Sam Hunt and Breland.

-- The game, 8 p.m. Monday at Lucas Oil Stadium: Georgia vs. Alabama for the College Football Playoff championship.

(For more information on the ancillary events, go to

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