Three music events with direct visitor spending estimated at $28 million that were hosted at Lucas Oil Stadium offer proof,
city officials said, that the expense of the retractable roof and other features of the $720 million facility are paying off.
The cost and practicality of the retractable roof have been subjects of debate since the facility opened a year ago.
It’s difficult to completely untangle the cost of the roof from the rest of the facility. The steel that went into making the roof and supports the structure cost $83.2 million. The parts and labor for the moving components of the roof and retractable window on the stadium’s north end cost $15.6 million. The annual maintenance budget for the roof is $270,000, with another $30,000 allocated for the window.
The idea was to make the facility more flexible than the RCA Dome and capable of hosting an expanded menu of events, said Pat Early, longtime member of the city’s Capital Improvement Board, which owns and operates the stadium.
“The potential to offer an outdoor experience is huge in our ability to book events at that facility,” said Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association President Don Welsh.
Among those events are the music events that make up the backbone of the city’s Music Crossroads initiative. The idea behind the initiative, Welsh said, is to use Lucas Oil Stadium and the surrounding infrastructure to draw various music events.
“We’re talking about events that have a very big economic impact here and benefit a lot of area businesses,” Welsh said.
Drum Corps International marched into the stadium Aug. 4-8, drawing 30,000 spectators and bringing the city $10 million in direct visitor spending, according to the ICVA, despite the weak economy.
Organizers of Indianapolis-based DCI have moved the event every year since its founding in 1972. They were so impressed with Lucas Oil Stadium, DCI officials agreed to hold their annual event in the facility through 2018.
On Oct. 31, the Indiana State School Music Association State Championships will be held at the stadium. It is expected to attract 30,000 and generate visitor spending of $1 million.
The Bands of America Grand Nationals is here Nov. 11-14, and is projected to net 40,000 spectators and $17 million in direct visitor spending.
DCI often uses open-air stadiums, but it likes the flexibility Lucas Oil Stadium offers if the weather is bad. The promise of new facilities here—which includes the expanded convention center set to open in December 2010—caused DCI to move its headquarters here from Chicago in March 2008.
The Bands of America Grand National had been in the RCA Dome since 1984, and there’s no comparison between that facility and the new stadium, said Scott McCormick, president of Indianapolis-based Bands of America.
“Acoustically and the way we can stage the event is far superior,” McCormick said. “They can stage events in this facility because of its flexibility that goes way beyond merely being a stage for football.”
The retractable roof is just one attraction. Several other features that make it more appealing than the RCA Dome are movable lower-level seats and less concrete. In facilities with lots of exposed concrete, the sound bounces from surface to surface and becomes garbled.
“We’ve used the Georgia Dome, the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, and Alamo Dome in San Antonio for some of our events, and nothing has the arts appeal that Lucas Oil Stadium does,” McCormick said.
Despite the rave reviews, a convertible stadium designed like the one here has its problems.
The roof can’t be opened if there is a threat of rain because there is no drainage system inside the stadium and many electronic features are not waterproof. The roof also can’t be opened when the outside temperature is below 40 degrees or above 90 because it’s too expensive and ineffective to control the inside temperature with the roof open. And there have been plenty of complaints about air flow when the roof is open.
The open design at a facility like Miller Park in Milwaukee allows air to flow through more naturally than does the sealed nature of Lucas Oil stadium, said Mike Fox, stadium director.
“LOS was designed to be an indoor facility with a roof and window that open occasionally,” Fox said. “Miller Park in Milwaukee … is designed to be an outdoor facility where the roof is closed occasionally. The design criteria for the two stadiums are completely different.”•