Indy Public Works Readies For Final Four

Having hosted some of the world’s largest sporting events, Indianapolis officials say they are prepared for another influx of visitors to downtown.
Indy Public Works Readies For Final Four
Hundreds of thousands of college basketball fans will travel to Indianapolis this weekend for the Final Four at Lucas Oil Stadium.

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Indianapolis is used to large crowds.

The city is home to the Indianapolis 500 each May, as well as hosting the Big Ten football championship each December and the conference’s men’s basketball postseason tournament every other year. In 2012, Indianapolis was the site of the granddaddy of them all, the Super Bowl.

This year, Indianapolis is hosting its eighth NCAA men’s basketball Final Four and first since 2010.

With the Final Four just days away, the Indianapolis Department of Public Works is prepared for another flood of people coming to the city.

“Our system was built over a 100 years ago, so for the most part we are still in a combined sewer overflow,” says Indianapolis Department of Public Works Director Andy Lutz, just eight days before Saturday’s national semifinal games. “We work closely with our utility, Citizens Energy Group, and the handling of sewage and water, so we’re prepared for it. If there’s a peak event during these types of festivities, we usually work with our local utilities to account for that.”

Indianapolis has a population hovering around 850,000 residents. If 100,000 visitors invade the city for the Final Four festivities, that’s an increase of about 11 percent. That can take a toll on the city’s resources. However, Lutz doesn’t feel like it’s a too big of a challenge for the city’s water and wastewater system to handle such large crowds in a concentrated area.

“It’s pretty normal,” Lutz says. “I can’t say that there’s not always something that comes up that you don’t expect or haven’t planned for, but for the most part everything goes according to plan, especially from a wastewater point of view.”

When Indianapolis hosted the Super Bowl three years ago, everything went off without a hitch. However, with temperatures unseasonably balmy in the low 50s in early February, the city was pushed to the extreme, but passed the test.

“That was definitely the worst-case scenario. It was the peak time for great weather, so people were out on the streets and maximizing the hotel and restaurant areas and the industry downtown,” Lutz says. “We didn’t notice or have any issues with the performance of our systems. I think what it told us is that we’re pretty prepared and we can handle just about anything."

In getting ready for Super Bowl XLVI, Indianapolis was in constant contact with cities, including Dallas, which had hosted Super Bowls in the past. Planning is always a major key in preparing for large-scale events. Indianapolis has become a well-oiled machine.

“It’s a constant planning effort we have with major stakeholders downtown, the NCAA, our utilities and our other state and local agencies that we’re meeting on a regular basis to make sure that these events aren’t overloading systems and things of that such,” Lutz says.

“Citizens Energy Group is currently building a deep rock tunnel that will handle a lot of the separation of some of our combined sewer overflow areas. A lot of planning and a lot of capital projects are going into the ground as we speak that are going to address the need for sewage and water runoff.”

The Department of Public Works always has an idea of what could happen and how to address it. If something were to occur, Lutz and his staff are ready to handle anything.

Lutz believes if a problem were to materialize during a major sporting event in the city, it would be weather related.

“The CSO system, if it’s just a standard, normal weekend, I don’t see a lot of things that could go wrong besides mass failure,” Lutz says. “If you’re going to have some sort of thing that you can’t predict where a sewer main collapses or something goes down, that would be definitely be a catastrophic failure.

“Other than that, it would be weather related. If we had some major flooding or high-end water events, 100-, 300-year events. In this area around downtown, you could possibly see some CSO issues. But we’ve had some major rain events over the last five to 10 years and still haven’t been able to see things that would concern you, raw sewage in the streets.”

Citizens Energy Group, which owns Indianapolis’ water and wastewater system utilities, is confident it is ready to handle the influx of basketball fans in the city.

“Fortunately, even during large events like the Super Bowl, we have not experienced interruptions to water, wastewater, gas or steam service,” says Sarah Holsapple, Citizens Energy Group spokesperson. “As with every day, Citizens will have crews available and ready to respond in case of an emergency during the Final Four. We anticipate, however, that weekend being business as usual.”

Photo credit: “Lucas Oil Stadium” by Jun Wang is licensed under CC BY 2.0.


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