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Indy's ready for showtime; Brady, Belichick and Peyton's brother invade city with big-event experience

A Manning victory over Brady is the dream that could come true for Indianapolis this week. Well, sort of.

The Manning Indianapolis had in mind was Peyton, the hero of their beloved Colts, not his younger brother, Eli, of the New York Giants. But given the alternative in Super Bowl XLVI, there is no doubt where the loyalties of the residents of the host city rest.

"When the football season began, you could have given Colts fans 32 choices of who they would like to see at Super Bowl XLVI, and the New England Patriots would have rated roughly 103rd," Indianapolis Star columnist Bob Kravitz wrote. "Somewhere between a plague of blood-sucking locusts and the North Korean military."

Buffalo fans can relate, times 10, since Pats quarterback Tom Brady has victimized them even more than he has terrorized the Colts. Whether you're a football fan in Buffalo, Indianapolis or any other NFL city, the Brady-Manning matchup shapes up as a classic.

It's a rematch of the Super Bowl of four years ago, when the Giants ruined New England's perfect season in one of the biggest upsets in NFL history. It's a chance for Brady and Pats coach Bill Belichick to enhance their credentials as perhaps the greatest QB and coach, respectively, of all time. It's a chance for Eli Manning to win a second Super Bowl ring and ignite the conversation that he might even be better than his older brother.

And it's the first chance for Indianapolis to cash in on a huge investment and host the nation's biggest sporting event.

Indianapolis is the country's 34th largest metropolitan area with a population of 1.7 million. The national sports spotlight has shined on the city 100 years running due to the Indianapolis 500 auto race. Famed author

and Indianapolis native Kurt Vonnegut many years ago called his hometown the city that "watches the 500 one day and sleeps the other 364."

Indianapolis outgrew that line long ago. Besides being the home of the Colts and NBA's Pacers, it's regarded as the amateur sports capital of the country and has been the host for six college basketball Final Fours.

The city threw its hat in the ring to host the Super Bowl after it built Lucas Oil Stadium, which opened in 2008. The cost was about $750 million, and all but $100 million was financed by taxpayers, mostly from raising food, beverage and income taxes.

About 100,000 visitors are expected this week, and Indianapolis is hoping to cash in on an economic impact from the game estimated at anywhere between $150 million and $400 million; the total is widely questioned and debated.

"The NFL estimates that over 60 percent of those people [visiting] are corporate decision makers, so those are key people who, if they come to Indianapolis and have a positive experience, will come back," said Dianna Boyce, director of communications for the Indianapolis Super Bowl host committee.

Unlike many U.S. cities, all of the action in Indianapolis is downtown, the region's hub for entertainment, dining and attractions. One of the big selling points for attracting the Super Bowl was the city's vast enclosed walkway system, which connects 12 hotels, the convention center, a shopping mall and the stadium.

"Our governor likes to say, the couple of times he has been to the Super Bowl, everything takes ' 'bout an hour' to get to," Boyce said. "There won't be any ' 'bout an hours' here, because everything really is downtown."

Capacity at Lucas Oil Stadium will be 68,000, which will make it one of the four smallest crowds ever for the Super Bowl. (A crowd of 61,946 at Super Bowl I was the smallest). Face value for tickets range from $800 to $1,200. On the secondary market, tickets this week were going for about $2,800, a little down from last year.

Overall viewership won't be down. The marquee matchup of two big-market teams figures to make NBC, the network televising the game, happy. Last year's Super Bowl was the highest-rated telecast of the year, with 111 million viewers, the biggest audience in U.S. television history. This one should top that total. NBC sold out all of the 30-second advertising spots for the game weeks ago. They went for an average of $4 million a spot.

As usual, the NFL aims to bolster the viewership with entertainment. Kelly Clarkson will sing the National Anthem. Madonna is the halftime show headliner and will be backed by a performance from Cirque du Soleil.

When the game finally kicks off, the top storylines will include:

*Can Brady join Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw as the only four-time winning Super Bowl quarterbacks.

*Can Belichick join Pittsburgh's Chuck Noll as the only four-time winning Super Bowl head coach. (Belichick has two other Super Bowl rings as defensive coordinator of the Giants.)

*Can Eli Manning double the Super Bowl ring total of his brother (one) in the House that Peyton Built. Eli already has an NFL record five road playoff wins and is 7-1 in the postseason since the 2007 seasons.

*From a Western New York perspective, Amherst native Rob Gronkowski of the Patriots can cap what already has been the greatest single season for a tight end in NFL history. It could be the second straight year a Western New Yorker gets a Super Bowl ring. Niagara Falls native James Starks won with Green Bay last year.

email: mgaughan@buffnews.com