With labor deal close, Super Bowl planners set for Feb. 5 date

Indianapolis is ready to cancel its plans for a backup Super Bowl date.

All city officials need now is an end to the four-month NFL lockout.

Super Bowl host committee chairman Mark Miles said Wednesday he plans to inform local hoteliers that they can begin booking customers for the weekend of Feb. 12 soon after the NFL's owners and players agree to a new collective bargaining agreement. The Super Bowl is scheduled for Feb. 5, but league officials had asked the city to keep two weekends open during the bid process in case the date had to be moved.

"If it blows up in the next couple of days and we're right back where we started, we'll go back to the hotels and say 'It was a false alarm' and ask them to be patient," Miles said. "How many hours or days after (a deal) it will take to amend all that, I don't know, but I think it would be pretty quick. For them (hoteliers) to sit on two weekends, knowing that only one would be used, was an issue. So the sooner it's clear they can sell the second weekend, the better."

Miles spoke to reporters about an hour before a players meeting broke up in Washington, D.C.

Football fans were hoping player representatives would approve a new deal at NFL Players Association headquarters Wednesday, and that owners would approve the deal at their own meeting Thursday in Atlanta. If both parties had ratified the deal under that timeline, players could have returned to team facilities as early as Friday, and even the preseason games likely would start on time.

One problem: NFL players didn't vote Wednesday on any labor deal to end the lingering lockout, a source with knowledge of the situation told NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora.

Organizers also were watching closely in hopes of ridding the biggest question for the city's first Super Bowl -- whether the game would be played Feb. 5 or Feb. 12.

"The labor issue has never been about whether there would be a Super Bowl in February, but when," Miles said. "We've been reassured recently by the NFL that if there is a resolution soon, as most expect, we will be able to confirm Feb. 5 as the date."

The uncertainty about the timeline didn't deter the optimism of committee members or Greg Ballard, the mayor of Indianapolis.

"We expect nothing less than a great Super Bowl on Feb. 5," Ballard said. "I look forward to welcoming 100,000 or 150,000 folks here. We're anticipating this thing getting done, and I hope it does get done because what I'm really concerned about is that waitress or that taxi driver."

Regardless of what happens in New York, Washington or Atlanta, organizers are moving ahead with their plans.

Turf recently was laid down at the new indoor practice field at the University of Indianapolis, which the NFC team will use. The volunteer list has grown to more than 12,000. Ballard talked about fixing the city roads, now under construction for pre-Super Bowl work, and committee president Allison Melangton had eight pages of updates for the myriad projects going on around the city, most of which didn't get read during the 30-minute news conference.

But for now, it's all about the lockout.

"I think it's clear the owners and players realize the NFL is the rarest of properties because it is the model for sports franchises throughout the world," Miles said. "For that to be interrupted is hard to imagine."

A delay could prove costly to Indianapolis businesses.

More than 18,000 hotel rooms have been set aside for both February weekends, and the city hasn't booked any conventions for either weekend. The original reason league officials gave the city was the possibility of expanding to an 18-game schedule.

But keeping an extra weekend open could hurt restaurateurs and bar owners, too, many of whom are expected to profit from a projected economic boost of about $400 million.

Ballard also wants the NFL to keep the open week between conference championship games and the Super Bowl, hoping it will bring more people -- and more money -- to the city.

And if the convention center and hotels reopen for business on the weekend the NFL isn't using Lucas Oil Stadium, well, everybody could hit the jackpot.

"They (the hotels and venues) have been truly great partners in sucking it up for two weeks," Miles said. "But we have meant what we've said all along. I cannot imagine a situation where they don't resolve it and we don't have a Super Bowl."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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