INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana — the place where Peyton Manning, Larry Bird, the Hoosiers and more have created the stuff of legend — is undoubtedly a sports mecca.
A celeb magnet however? Not so much.
But that will change over the next few days as Madonna and an assortment of stars from film, music and TV arrive for four compact days of entertainment and partying tied to the Super Bowl.
"It doesn't even matter what state or what city it's going to be in, people are going to come and they're going to party and they will enjoy the game," said rapper-turned-celeb-DJ D-Nice, who is spinning at the ESPN Next party hosted by Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and featuring a performance by chart-topping rapper Drake.
Alec Baldwin is hosting the "NFL Honors," which will features celebs like Lenny Kravitz; Snoop Dogg, Nas and J. Cole are expected to perform separately at various parties; Steven Tyler and Carrie Underwood are performing for "CMT Crossroads" on Super Bowl eve; and "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" is planning a broadcast after the Super Bowl with scheduled guests to include Taylor Lautner, Tracy Morgan, Tim Tebow and Maroon 5's Adam Levine. Playboy is having its annual Super Bowl party, as is Maxim, which has a superhero theme. Both promise curvaceous beauties and celebs.
It's looking to be a strong celeb turnout, dispelling some initial concerns that the choice of Indianapolis might lead to weaker participation from stars than in previous years, when the Super Bowl was held in sunny, celebrity-friendly cities like Miami and San Diego.
Tracy Kessler, an event planner who has curated the Maxim party for the last seven years, says it helps that the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens collapsed in the final minutes of the AFC and NFC Championship games, leaving the Super Bowl to the New England Patriots and the New York Giants.
"When you're in a big town like Miami, you know the celebrities are coming no matter what. When you're in a town like Indy you do worry about that (turnout) until the teams are in it, and we could not have had two better teams," said Kessler, adding: "I breathed a sigh of relief when we saw who was going."
Still, there are some concerns. Indianapolis doesn't have the club or luxury hotel stock that bigger cities have. But Scott Keogh, chief marketing officer for Audi, which hosts the A-list "Audi Forum" Super Bowl week, says Indianapolis is not an undesirable location for its temporary "oasis" for celebs (Spike Lee, Neil Patrick Harris, Kellan Lutz and Mary J. Blige are among the expected guests).
"I've read a lot of articles and I think people are being a little hard on Indianapolis, because they're comparing it to much larger and obviously more celebrity-oriented type of towns like Miami and places like that," he said. "In our minds, it doesn't change a thing. Whether it's Miami with the warm weather or Arizona or Indianapolis, we always want to execute a smart forum. ... We still feel it's important to be there."
And D-Nice, who has spun at several Super Bowl parties, feels the excitement is as great as it could be among his celebrity friends.
"It's definitely going to be a celeb crowd. Every celeb that I personally know, they're definitely all going to the game and they'll be out in Indy for Super Bowl weekend. It's Super Bowl, it's football, it's the one sport that we all love."
He added: "Of course Miami is Miami, it's different, sunshine, beaches, nightlight is there. But I think for everything that's missing in Indy, we're going to bring it to the city."