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CSU alumna in Super Bowl spotlight

January 23, 2012
By Tony Phifer

In 13 days, all of Allison Melangton's work over the past four years will be put on display for all the world to see.

Allison Melangton, a 1983 CSU graduate, has been overseeing the Indianapolis Super Bowl bid for more than four years. Melangton, you see, is the president and CEO of the 2012 Indianapolis Super Bowl Host Committee. So when more than 1 billion viewers around the globe tune in Feb. 5 to watch Super Bowl XLVI, more than 2 billion eyes will be watching to see if Indianapolis is ready for the biggest spectacle in American sport.

“It has been amazing experience,” said Melangton of her Super Bowl odyssey that began in 2007. “Hosting the Super Bowl has transformed Indianapolis. I’m confident people are going to like what they see and have a great experience here.”

Second female

Melangton laughed when asked if she had ever imagined herself running a Super Bowl. She is, after all, just the second female to head a Super Bowl committee (Susan Sherer was the first, overseeing Super Bowl XL in Detroit), and she had never been directly involved with football prior to 2007, when the city put together its first – and unsuccessful – bid to host a Super Bowl.

She was on the same committee in 2008 when the city’s bid was accepted, making Indianapolis just the third “cold weather” city selected. Shortly after that, Melangton was named to head the host committee, overseeing a full-time staff of 35, 60 working committees and more than 8,000 volunteers.

Former CSU gymnast

It’s quite a leap for someone who came to CSU in 1979 to pursue her love of gymnastics. But a series of incidents that took place in Fort Collins – the Maine native had never set foot in Colorado prior to arriving at CSU – helped shape her both personally and professionally.

“I could not have had a better experience at CSU,” Melangton said. “I embraced and loved every single minute of my four years there. And the people I met there have been incredibly influential in my life.”

Thanks to Allison Melangton's vision, downtown Indianapolis has been transformed into a winter festival, with lots of indoor and outdoor activities for fans to enjoy.Not everything went as planned for Melangton. One year into her collegiate career, CSU eliminated the men’s and women’s gymnastics programs in a cost-saving measure. As a sophomore, she competed as a diver for the swimming and diving team. After that, she focused on her future.

A new beginning

She said the turning point in her life came when, during her freshman year, CSU hosted the World Team Gymnastics Trials. The women’s gymnastics coach, Sheila Walker, asked Melangton to serve as a volunteer – and she was hooked.

Two years later, when CSU again hosted the World Team Trials, Melangton was given more responsibility – and the opportunity to catch the eye of officials from Colorado Springs-based USA Gymnastics. That led to an internship with the U.S. Olympic Committee.

“Sheila was the first person who helped me see that I could make a living running sporting events,” Melangton said. “I got the bug and realized this was something I wanted to do.”

Off to Indy

In 1983, when USA Gymnastics moved its headquarters to Indianapolis, Melangton followed and never looked back. She has had a hand in helping transforming Indianapolis from a sleepy Midwest city known for an auto race into a sports mecca. Now, in addition to hosting the iconic Indianapolis 500 and being the home of the NFL’s Colts and the NBA’s Pacers, several U.S. Olympic sports and the NCAA are based in Indianapolis.

“I’ve been through it all,” she said. “I was part of a group of people that were changing the city’s history. It has been incredibly exciting.”

Indianapolis has hosted numerous big events, from the Final Four in college basketball to the various national and international championships. Nothing, though, compares to hosting a Super Bowl.

Melangton, though, believes she and the city are up to the challenge. She has been an executive producer of NBC’s gymnastics coverage at the past four Summer Olympics (and will do a fifth this summer in London), and played a significant role in putting on a number of other major sporting events.

Bracing for the cold

Her experience taught her that the way to deal with potentially harsh weather in Indianapolis is to simply embrace it. The downtown area will be transformed into a winter festival, which includes interactive games and an 800-foot zip line. Tickets for the zip line sold out in 10 days.

“Last year, Dallas got a lot of negative publicity when an ice storm hit the city the weekend of the game,” she said. “We have done everything we can to make sure we are ready for every type of weather.”

Big game, big bucks

When the game is over, and the thousands of visitors have gone home, the Super Bowl will have produced nearly $400 million for the city’s economy.

Melangton, who has been working 18-hour days with only a handful of days off over the past six months, said that despite the huge time commitment, there’s a part of her that will miss the frenzy.

Ready for a nap

“The thing I’m deprived of right now is sleep, but there is a deadline date and I can look forward to that,” she said, laughing. “The intensity and level of output required to make this happen has been incredible, but it has also been a great professional growing experience for me. It was great fun to work on something different, and I loved working with the NFL staff.

“It will take a while to get some balance back in my life, but I’m ready for that.”

Part of that balance will be watching her son, Cameron, graduate from high school, and celebrating her 25th anniversary with her husband, Tom. Before long, though, she will be getting ready for London and the 2012 Summer Games.

“After that, I’m going to take a really long nap,” she said with a laugh.