After years of angling and months of negotiating, city and state officials finally came to an agreement with the Indianapolis Colts to build a $625 million retractableroof stadium south of the RCA Dome.
With a drum roll and a crowd of 1,200 fans and dignitaries counting down-three, two, one-Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, Gov. Mitch Daniels, Mayor Bart Peterson and others shoveled a little dirt on the future home of the city's new stadium in a formal ground breaking Sept. 21.
When the stadium is completed in the summer of 2008, the RCA Dome will be demolished to make room for a $275 million Indiana Convention Center expansion.
The Colts agreed to a 30-year lease, which includes the team's paying $100 million of the project cost. Of that, $34 million will come from a forgivable loan of sorts from the NFL. The Colts also are receiving $48 million from the city as compensation for terminating the team's RCA Dome lease. That amount, coupled with the NFL money, decreases the contribution from the Colts' coffers to $18 million.
The state will kick in $4 million to $11 million annually for the project-all state tax revenue that is generated in a sportsdevelopment zone that will include the stadium, convention center and Conseco Fieldhouse.
Higher hotel, rental car, ticket, and food and beverage taxes in Indianapolis will generate the bulk of the money to pay off the bonds for the project. Also, all the counties surrounding the city-except Morgan-passed a food and beverage tax with half the revenue earmarked for the stadium.
Lost in the debate on how to finance the stadium was Peterson's proposal to pay through slot machine revenue. The General Assembly in 2005 soundly defeated that measure. After one more power struggle, it was determined Daniels, a Republican, would oversee the project, not Peterson, a Democrat.
With 10,370 more seats to fill in the new stadium than in the 55,500-seat RCA Dome-including nearly 2,900 more club seats and 36 more luxury suites-the Colts have shifted their marketing efforts into overdrive.
The stadium will house more than just Colts games and other football events. The NCAA announced a deal with city officials early in the year to bring the men's Final Four to the new venue as part of a regular rotation.
"We're convinced it will be the finest state-of-the-art building in this country or even world," said Tom Jernstedt, NCAA executive vice president.
After a Sept. 21 groundbreaking, construction on the new stadium began in earnest.