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Kicking off the tenth season.

It will be 10 years ago next spring Mayflower Van Lines brought the Colts to Indianapolis--the only city to build a dome on speculation.

Time certainly does fly when you're having fun.

The Indianapolis Colts kick off the 1993-94 National Football League season this month at the Hoosier Dome--their 10th season in Indianapolis. It was a decade ago this coming spring that a fleet of Mayflower Van Lines trucks pulled up outside the Colts' administrative offices and practice field at Owings Mills, Maryland, and moved the Colts from their Baltimore home under the cover of night.

After nearly a decade, sportscasters are no longer referring to the Baltimore Colts. The Colts are fully a part of the Indianapolis community, and even though there have been more losing seasons than winning ones, plenty of faithful still flock to the Hoosier Dome for home games.

That's ample justification for the risks that then-Indianapolis Mayor William Hudnut and others took when they negotiated for six long weeks during the spring of 1984 to get the Colts to move from Baltimore to Indianapolis. The Colts made the move to the Hoosier capital in March 1984.

The team's impact on its adopted home has been significant in several ways. Economically, the acquisition of the Colts coming on the heels of the construction of the Hoosier Dome--a multipurpose sports stadium and mammoth convention facility--gave a shot in the arm to downtown development. Literally thousands of downtown hotel rooms have been either built or refurbished since 1984.

But the coming of the Colts also has been of critical importance in establishing Indianapolis' reputation as a big-league city. Admittedly intangible, the existence of an NFL franchise is of inestimable value in advertising a city to the nation at large. Consider that there are some 200 metropolitan areas in the United States; only 28 of those cities can boast a National Football League franchise.

"One of the things you cannot buy is a Monday Night Football game," says Michael Chernoff, vice president of the Colts and the chief negotiator for the Baltimore club when it moved to Indianapolis. "When you see that exposure, you can see how the Colts helped Indianapolis. Even Eric Dickerson, whether you liked him or not, was additional publicity for Indianapolis. That's all exposure that you cannot buy."

Hudnut, now a research associate at the Hudson Institute in Indianapolis, recalls just how distant securing a professional football franchise for Indianapolis looked in the winter of 1983-84. The city was in the final stages of construction of the Hoosier Dome, and it was looking for a professional football team to sign up as a tenant for the new stadium. Indianapolis business executive Robert V. Welch was hard at work trying to put together a deal to bring a franchise to Indianapolis.

In 1982, the Indianapolis Project approached Eli Lilly & Co. for advice on making the city's case before the National Football League. Lilly took on the project and commissioned SRI International, a California consulting firm, to do a feasibility study on professional football in Indianapolis.

The 50-page SRI report, released in 1983, proved that Indianapolis was capable of supporting a pro football franchise. SRI noted that the Indianapolis market was then larger than six existing NFL franchise cities, including San Diego, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Buffalo, New Orleans and Green Bay. There were then 1.1 million people within a 25-mile radius of Indianapolis, an important figure because NFL surveys had consistently pointed out that 75 percent of season ticket holders live within 25 miles of the stadium.

SRI compared how Indianapolis stacked up against other cities that were then in the process of trying to secure an NFL franchise, including Phoenix, Memphis, Birmingham and Jacksonville. The report estimated that Indianapolis could expect to sell 41,000 season tickets, slightly fewer than Phoenix but ahead of the other three cities.

Still, as 1983 stretched into 1984, the prospects for getting an NFL franchise for the Hoosier city looked slim, at least for the foreseeable future. From 1982 to 1984, city officials traveled to Phoenix, Palm Springs and Honolulu to make presentations at winter meetings of the NFL owners. Hudnut remembers that in February 1984, the week before negotiations with the Colts began in earnest, "I had given a speech to the Chamber of Commerce predicting that Indianapolis would have a professional football franchise by the year 2000."

Sometime shortly after the Super Bowl that year, Chernoff, the right-hand man to owner Robert Irsay, came to Indianapolis to take a look at the nearly completed Hoosier Dome. "Things were not as good as they might be in Baltimore," Chernoff recalls. "Mr. Irsay was determined that he wanted to take a look at a possible relocation."

What Chernoff saw at the unfinished Hoosier Dome was coincidental, if not serendipitous. "I went down and toured the Dome," he says, "and the color of the seats was Colts blue and silver."

Shortly after, Chernoff met Hudnut, former deputy mayor David Frick and Indiana Convention and Visitor's Association head William McGowan. Within weeks, Chernoff and Frick had embarked upon a marathon round of negotiations designed to bring the Colts to Indianapolis.

"It consumed about a year of my life," notes Frick, Indianapolis deputy mayor until 1982, and now a partner with the Indianapolis law firm of Baker & Daniels. "They needed to be helped to locate in Indianapolis, and they looked to us to help get them settled."

Frick spent six weeks in February and March of 1984 in almost non-stop negotiations with Chernoff and the Colts. For much of that time, his daughter Amy was in the hospital recovering from appendicitis.

As the city's point man in the negotiations, Frick reported back to Hudnut and a group of Indianapolis civic leaders dubbed the "706 Club," after room 706 in the Columbia Club on Monument Circle, which became the command post for the effort to get the Colts. Other members, in addition to Frick and Hudnut, included Tom Moses, the late chairman of the board of the Indianapolis Water Co.; Nick Frenzel, chairman and CEO of the former Merchants National Bank; P.E. MacAllister, chairman of the city's Capital Improvements Board; James Morris, then representing the Lilly Endowment TABULAR DATA OMITTED and now president and CEO of IWC Resources; and Herb Simon, the president of Melvin Simon & Associates.

For the city, the lure of getting an NFL franchise justified practically any financial risk.

For the Colts, the deal was enticing. The team was playing in an increasingly decrepit Memorial Stadium in Baltimore before sparse crowds. By moving to Indianapolis, the Colts could play in a brand-new domed stadium, use a new training facility, benefit from a major loan from Merchants National Bank and enjoy the chance to sell considerably more tickets than they had in years in Baltimore.

Hudnut notes that Indianapolis had several advantages over other cities the Colts were investigating. "We had a good facility," he says. "There was a proximity to Irsay's home in Chicago. They liked us, and they had a bankable deal with Merchants."

Things began to move much more quickly in late March, when Irsay discovered that the Maryland General Assembly was debating a bill that would give the state the power of eminent domain over sports franchises. Worried that the state would condemn and take over the Colts, Irsay instructed Chernoff to call Frick and tell him that the deal was a go.

Indianapolis mobilized for the move. Hudnut called Johnny B. Smith, the CEO of Mayflower Corp. Smith had offered to move the Colts on 12-hour notice for free as his part of the city's NFL effort. Mayflower located 12 contract drivers, and by the evening of March 28, a fleet of Mayflower vans was on its way to Owings Mill, Maryland. More than 1,000 cartons were packed that evening and loaded into 11 of the vans as three inches of snow fell on the Maryland countryside. The last van was loaded at eight in the morning on Friday, March 29.

The announcement that Friday that the Colts were moving to Indianapolis generated second-coming-size headlines in the Indianapolis newspapers.

The next Tuesday, Irsay flew into Indianapolis to be introduced by Hudnut and Frick to his new fans at the Hoosier Dome. More than 20,000 people turned out for the welcoming celebration.

"It's a great marriage that's been very, very good for all parties concerned," Chernoff says.

"It was a very exciting time for the city," Hudnut adds. "Bringing Irsay in that Tuesday morning and being greeted by 20,000 people--that was the biggest thrill of my 16 years as mayor."

But has it been a good deal for Indianapolis? Early estimates were that the Colts would generate about $30 million in economic activity yearly in Indianapolis. That figure was extrapolated from studies in other NFL cities, including Baltimore, that showed a professional football franchise generates between $20 million and $35 million in economic activity each year in its host city.

"The Department of Metropolitan Development assessed it at $30 million," Hudnut says. "But I don't know that we've ever quantified that."

That includes salaries for the team members and administrative staff, leases and rental of stadium facilities, money spent by media and visiting teams, restaurant and hotel tabs for out-of-town fans, and a host of other revenues. Fans coming in from Terre Haute, South Bend, Fort Wayne, Evansville and elsewhere frequently make a weekend out of a Colts game. Then there's the trickle-down effect that puts money into the pockets of everybody from team caterers to off-duty police hired for parking and traffic control, creating a multiplier effect that goes far beyond the initial economic impact.

John L. Krauss, senior fellow at the Indiana University Center for Urban Policy and Environment and deputy mayor of Indianapolis from 1982 to 1990, says he thinks the Colts' move to Indianapolis on the heels of the completion of the Hoosier Dome was "the icing on the cake" for the development of downtown Indianapolis.

McGowan, executive director of the Indianapolis Convention & Visitor's Association, seconds that opinion. Indianapolis was the only city in the nation to build a dome on speculation, but McGowan adds that Indianapolis also was at the time the only city in the country to have an attached convention center and dome.

He stresses the fact that one can't separate the convention center and the dome when evaluating the economic impact of the Colts. The Colts, he says, "are a great springboard for us. They help us book convention, meeting and trade shows. They've helped us immensely."

The combination of the Colts, the Hoosier Dome and the convention facilities also have been responsible for millions of dollars of investment in downtown Indianapolis during the past 10 years, McGowan says. He ticks off a list of hotels that have been built in the Mile Square area during the past decade: 1984, 99 rooms at the Canterbury; 1985, 360 new rooms at the Embassy Suites; 1986, 286 new rooms at the Holiday Inn Union Station; 1987, 278 rooms at the University Place Hotel; 1989, 572 rooms at the Westin; 1990, 423 rooms at the Omni Severin; 1991, 99 rooms at a Days Inn.

"Every room in downtown Indianapolis is either new or restored since 1984," McGowan says.

Union Station, the $70 million downtown hotel-restaurant-retail complex probably wouldn't exist without the Colts and the Hoosier Dome. Although the Colts only play at the Dome 10 times a season, McGowan notes that "it definitely helps 10 times a year to fill up Union Station. It's fun to see people streaming down the street into Union Station following a game."

For that matter, the Colts and the Dome probably went a long way toward renewal of the warehouses and flats that were home a century ago to Irish immigrants living along either side of South Meridian Street between Washington and South Streets. Those buildings now house a variety of restaurants and night spots.

The Colts' Chernoff notes that the organization has attempted to be a good corporate citizen in its adopted home. The Irsays readily make the Pavilion and Party Barn at their Indianapolis home available for charitable events, and the Colts contribute to a variety of state and local charities, over and above the money that NFL Charities makes available in the city. Irsay also has become increasingly involved in Indianapolis real estate; several of the Walgreen's drugstores that have opened around the city in recent months have been developed by the owner of the Colts.

What the Colts bring to Indianapolis, however, can't always be measured in dollars and cents. In economic development, getting the Colts to Indianapolis instantly gave the city credibility. "It's one of those things," explains Tim Monger, president of the Indianapolis Economic Development Corp., the private, non-profit group that spearheads many of the economic and industrial development projects in the city. "There's a lot of different ways we benefit from the Colts--as long as they spell the city's name right. We're certainly up on the screen quite frequently."

Lawrence S. Davidson, associate professor of business and public policy at Indiana University in Bloomington, has studied the economic impact of several NFL teams, including the Atlanta Falcons. The impact on economic development, Davidson says, is "akin to the idea of what happens when you bring in a Toyota plant to the area. You're importing dollars that would have been spent somewhere else in the world. They spend it in your city."

McGowan points out that when Indianapolis plays the East Division rival New York Jets at the Hoosier Dome, "the game is on NBC in New York City. Millions of people who do not know much about Indianapolis get to see us. We do business in New York, so that kind of exposure is hard to put a dollar value on."

Former deputy mayor Krauss notes that "cities have to have their own unique signatures. The more options and opportunities you have make the city inviting," he adds, citing the Colts, the Indianapolis 500 and The Children's Museum as some of the things that contribute to an unique signature for Indianapolis. "You have to have those arrays of activities, and you have to tell people about them."

One related question: Has Indianapolis been good for the Colts? The team certainly thinks so. "Indianapolis is a great city," Chernoff says. "Mr. Irsay feels that way totally. It's an intangible thing, and not subject to valuation, but it's there."

As another season gets under way, fans continue to buy thousands of tickets to Colts games. Oh sure, there's been grumbling about whether Jeff George or Jack Trudeau should be playing quarterback, and the 1-15 season in 1991 is better forgotten. But the fans still show up.

"We have season tickets with some of the same people since the beginning," says Dave Carley, president of DeMars-Haka Development and a former director of the city's Department of Metropolitan Development. "And some of their kids who couldn't hold down the seats 10 years ago are now driving to the games. It's hard to imagine a fall coming up without the Colts."

The Deal

The deal that David Frick and the "706 Club" hammered out with the Colts in the spring of 1984 was a win-win situation for both sides, participants in those long-ago negotiations claim.

In essence, the Colts agreed to lease the Hoosier Dome from the Capital Investments Board for $25,000 a game, or $250,000 a year for 10 home games. The lease extends through February 2009, with one five-year renewal option. The city also receives a 5 percent tax on ticket sales, which initially worked out to $465,000 a year on sold-out houses at $15.50 per average ticket; at $25 a ticket, the tax would total $750,000 per year if each home game sold out.

The CIB also receives 41 percent of concession sales, revenue from the lease of sky boxes, revenue from parking and advertising sales, and an increase in sales taxes on hotels and restaurants.

For its part, the CIB agreed to pay game-day personnel at the stadium--the cost of which was initially set at about $150,000 per year--and to pay for construction of the Colts' $4 million training and administrative facility on West 56th Street in Indianapolis. Merchants National loaned the Colts $12.5 million, and the CIB agreed to pick up interest costs above 8 percent on the loan; the Colts voluntarily paid off the balance of the loan early in 1992.

Finally, the city guaranteed the Colts' $7 million in ticket sales and broadcast revenues for the first 12 years of the agreement. It was a calculated risk, but one that was rewarded with success almost immediately. John L. Krauss, then deputy mayor, notes that the number of season ticket holders that first year--57,000--"blew everybody's mind."

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Title Annotation:10th year anniversary of tne Indianapolis Colts
Author:Beck, Bill
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Sep 1, 1993
Words:2811
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