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Report: Indianapolis Turns Down NFL Request to Host Neutral Site AFC Title Game

Erin WalshJanuary 6, 2023

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - JANUARY 09:  A view of Lucas Oil Stadium ahead of the 2022 CFP National Championship between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Georgia Bulldogs on January 09, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Indianapolis has reportedly turned down a request from the NFL to host a potential neutral site AFC Championship Game later this month at Lucas Oil Stadium, according to Joe Schroeder of Fox59 News.

The city declined to host the title game because of scheduling conflicts, per Mickey Shuey of the Indianapolis Business Journal.

"Indianapolis was approached to host the game, but the city already has an event on its calendar at Lucas Oil Stadium and that would make it nearly impossible for the NFL to host the game there," Shuey wrote.

Colts executives said they were approached this week about possibly hosting the game on Jan. 28 or 29 after the NFL announced that Monday night's game between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals would not be resumed.

Bill safety Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest during the first quarter of Monday's game, which went on to be suspended. Hamlin is currently at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center and continues to "progress remarkably in his recovery," doctors said Friday, per ESPN's Alaina Getzenberg.

Due to the cancellation of that game, the Bills and Bengals will have played one less game than all other playoff-bound teams. That resulted in the NFL coming up with proposals to alter the AFC playoffs, which were agreed upon on Friday.

Under one of the proposals, the NFL decided that the AFC Championship Game will be played at a neutral site if one of the following scenarios plays out:

  • Scenario 1: If the Bills and Chiefs both win or both tie, a Buffalo versus Kansas City AFCCG would be played at a neutral site. 
  • Scenario 2: If the Bills and Chiefs both lose and the Ravens win or tie, a Buffalo versus Kansas City AFCCG would be played at a neutral site.
  • Scenario 3: If the Bills and Chiefs both lose and the Bengals win, a Buffalo or Cincinnati versus Kansas City AFCCG would be played at a neutral site. 

The conflict preventing Lucas Oil Stadium from hosting a potential neutral site AFC Championship Game is the Central Zone Invitational, which is a national volleyball tournament, per Shuey.

The volleyball tournament is expected to draw in as many as 30,000 people to downtown Indianapolis, Shuey added, and the city is expecting hotel room occupancy to exceed 7,000 rooms. Additionally, the volleyball tournament uses exhibit halls inside Lucas Oil Stadium and the field itself.

City officials and Visit Indy tried to see if the city could accommodate both events, but they determined it wouldn't be possible.

Colts chief operating officer Pete Ward told Shuey:

"It's our understanding that [the volleyball event] has been set in stone and cannot be moved, and virtually every hotel room in the city is booked. So, it's just one of those things you can't prepare for, or really anticipate—that Indianapolis would ever be the site for a neutral-site league championship game. It's just one of those things where the timing didn't work."

It's unclear which other cities the NFL has reached out to about potentially hosting a neutral site AFC Championship Game.