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Super Bowl week begins in Indianapolis; ice and snow no-shows

| Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS — Patriots coach Bill Belichick could leave his familiar hoodies in the hotel drawer. There was no need to bundle up for the start of only the fourth Super Bowl week in a northern city.

Ice and snow• Notable no-shows.

Fans threw open their jackets as they walked around downtown streets near Lucas Oil Stadium on Monday, hoping to get a glimpse of a celebrity in town for the game between New England and the New York Giants. Temperatures in the mid-to-upper 50s were forecast for the start of the week, well above normal.

The sunshine felt so good that it made for a joke or two.

"I know the way we're preparing and the way we've controlled the weather, which is hard to do," Colts owner Jim Irsay said, smiling. "But we've had certain techniques that were going to keep hidden, and I hope they hold."

Already, it's way better than Dallas.

Weather is a major concern when the title game goes north, but some of the biggest problems came down south last year. Snow and 100 hours of sub-freezing temperatures snarled traffic and led to injuries when an icy patch fell off the stadium roof and hit six workers.

Indianapolis watched and prepared.

"You can have anything in Indiana," Super Bowl Host Committee spokeswoman Mel Raines said. "Our plan is intended for everything."

In its first three times at a northern exposure, the NFL's title game has experienced a little of everything.

The ground-breaking game came after the 1981 season in Detroit, a test of whether it would work outside the sunny climes of Florida, New Orleans, Texas and California. The week leading up to the game between the Bengals and 49ers included bursts of snow culminating in nasty conditions for game day.

Bored players passed the time that week by spinning their tires on the ice-covered hotel parking lot for fun.

"I think the biggest challenge was for guys not to get bored to tears," former Bengals offensive lineman Dave Lapham said. "We kind of felt cooped up, really. Guys talked about: What are we going to do• Ski• Ice skate• You could strap on skates and skate on the streets. There was nothing do to."

Traffic heading to the Silverdome in Pontiac, Mich., on game day got clogged by another burst of snow. Fans braved temperatures of 13 degrees and a wind chill of 21 below.

After that experience, there was talk that the league would never venture north again for a Super Bowl.

"I thought they'd stick to it, honestly," said Lapham, now a broadcaster for the Bengals. "But with the dynamic of people putting up more money for stadiums, they're going to reward communities."

Ten years later, the Bills and Redskins played for the title in Minneapolis, where the ground was covered with snow but the region handled it much more smoothly.

Then, the cold became a selling point for some Redskins players. Earnest Byner, Art Monk, Monte Coleman and Chip Lohmiller went ice fishing on Cedar Lake in 30-below wind chills. Byner caught a 4-inch perch using a wax worm.

The game returned to Detroit after the 2005 season and things went much more smoothly despite a little snow on game day, when the Steelers beat the Seahawks.

Last year's game in Dallas became an unexpected reminder of what can go wrong in winter, no matter where the location.

A snowstorm and 100 consecutive hours of subfreezing temperatures turned the Dallas area into an ice rink. Snow and ice fell from the roof of Cowboys Stadium, injuring six workers on the plaza below. Organizers had spread events around a 30-mile area to emphasize the regional support for the game, creating major travel problems when the weather went bad.

Indianapolis has done it differently.

Most of the Super Bowl events are clustered downtown, minimizing travel. Temporary structures for the Super Bowl festivities were fitted with wind gauges for safety. On Sunday, two tents at an NFL fan exhibit were closed for about an hour because of high winds.

The city removed parking meters from high-traffic streets downtown so snow could be easily pushed away. Twenty-four snow removal trucks were on call for the game, four times the normal amount. The host committee recruited "Super Shoveler" volunteers to help clear sidewalks if it snowed.

In some ways, it's a warm-up act for the first true cold-weather title game. The 2014 Super Bowl will be co-hosted by New York and New Jersey, played outdoors instead of in a dome during the middle of winter.

The logo for that game• A blue-and-white snowflake.

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