INDIANAPOLIS — Monday night, Alabama and Georgia will fight for the College Football Playoff National Championship title at Lucas Oil Stadium.
As the hours edge closer to the championship game, thousands of fans have made their way to the Circle City.
“We’ve been planning this for four years and to watch all of these fans from Georgia, Alabama, the players, the bands, their families, all come into town and start to engage in these activities has been so awesome,” said Mark Howell, Board Chair of the Indy CFP 2022 Host Committee.
Howell said there are 400 people on the Host Committee and more than 2,000 volunteers that have worked to make this weekend possible.
“Indianapolis has this huge advantage of hosting these major championships. So, we’ve learned from Indy 500s and motorsports, from eight Final Fours, from the Super Bowl, from Big 10 Championships, that you know, we’ve got a great base of people and subject matter expertise that really helps us execute,” said Howell.
The action kicked off Saturday in Indianapolis as the first day of fan events got underway downtown.
Playoff Fan Central opened at the Indiana Convention Center, Georgia Street began to see the start of the weekend’s foot traffic despite the slick conditions outside, and the free concert series on Monument Circle drew in big crowds on the first night of CFP 2022 festivities.
Unfortunately, weather forced some changes to planned events when a drone show and a performance by dance group BANDALOOP was cancelled due to inclement weather.
Still, officials said they know plans sometimes have to change. It’s something they were prepared for as they planned a national championship and fan festivities in a midwest winter.
“We are absolutely seeing success. We knew from the beginning of planning this that this is Indiana, and it’s January and some things were at risk,” said Howell. “Our first priority is that all of these fans have fun and that it’s safe, so we just try and create the best balance between those two.”
On Sunday, officials announced once again the drone show would be cancelled not only for Sunday, but also Monday night. All other events were still able to go on as planned Sunday, including the highly anticipated Taste of the Championship, held at the Indiana State Museum.
“This is actually one of the marquis events of Championship weekend. This is a fundraising event to support the College Football Playoff Foundation,” said Howell.
The CFP Foundation’s primary platform works to help elevate the teaching profession by inspiring and empowering teachers. All of the proceeds from Sunday’s Taste of the Championship event were also used to help further that mission.
Additionally, the event’s organizers said more than 50 teachers from across the U.S. were being celebrated and were in attendance.
“The proceeds from the event go back to support Indiana teachers. We think teachers right now across the country really need help and need support, and so we’re honored to be associated with that,” said Britton Banowsky, Executive Director of the CFP Foundation.
Sunday’s culinary event featured elevated dishes from chefs in Indianapolis and beyond.
“The bigger impact that we’ve had has really taken place over the last 18 months, and we’ve worked closely with a lot of leaders here including the Department of Education in Indiana to find projects and strategies that will make the biggest difference right now, and we’ve invested millions of dollars into that,” Banowsky added.
Also participating in Sunday’s event were students from 10 schools from across Indiana, who volunteered to help restaurants with their booths and in any other capacity needed.
The students are a part of a program called ProStart, a two-year program, held nationwide, that helps provide industry-driven curriculum and real-life experience and opportunities to build a foundation that will help in their career.
According to ProStart’s coordinator, there are 45 ProStart programs around the state, with more than 1,700 students enrolled.
“With major championships and specifically in Indianapolis, these are great platforms for good and we always have a major legacy component to what we do in Indianapolis,” said Howell.
With the success of Sunday’s Taste of the Championship behind them, a second day of free concerts at the Circle wrapped and the minutes ticking closer to game time, CFP 2022 Host Committee officials said there is still much to look forward to Monday.
“There’s a lot of partying left to be done, so I just want to encourage people from the local community, even if you’re not going to the game, come downtown. Playoff Fan Central’s gonna be open from 10-3 Monday, we’re hosting the tailgate on the Circle with Breland and Sam Hunt tomorrow,” said Howell.
“If you’re in Indy, you’re in central Indiana, come down and be a part of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he added.
Fans we spoke with said they’ve been basking in the excitement the city has to offer and had nothing but good things to say when asked what they thought about the fan experiences so far.
“It’s been a great atmosphere. Indianapolis is a great town, other than the actual temperature. It’s a lot of adjustment for south Georgians,” said Susan Southerland, who came to Indy from south Georgia for the game.
“However, we’ll be ready to cheer on our Dawgs. We’re very excited to cheer them on to victory tomorrow night,” said Southerland.
“This is Disney World! Who don’t want to be at the championship? I’m in Disney World,” a man who only goes by the Ballin’ Bama Cowboy, told FOX59.
Fans we spoke with on both sides were, of course, confident in their team’s ability to take the win Monday night.
“There’s nothing that I would rather be doing now than being in Indianapolis and cheering on the Dawgs,” said Southerland. “We’ve got an excellent season, we’re extremely proud of what Coach Smart has put together for our team and the Dawgs are phenomenal. We’re hoping tomorrow they show up and roll That Tide.”
“Roll Tide,” Ballin’ Bama Cowboy, who shared his score prediction for the game.
Fan festivities will continue Monday with Playoff Fan Central open again from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and free performances by Sam Hunt and Breland.