Colts' sellout streak in danger, single-game tickets set to go on sale

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The Indianapolis Colts still have nearly 1,600 unsold seats for their regular-season opener Sept. 16 at Lucas Oil Stadium, and team officials plan to announce Thursday that many of those will go on sale this week through single-game tickets.

It will mark the first time since 2003 the Colts have not sold out their home venue through season-ticket sales.

“We’re at a time with the first preseason game approaching, we felt we had to put single-game tickets on sale,” said Colts Senior Vice President Pete Ward.

The preseason home schedule kicks off Aug. 12 against the St. Louis Rams with the regular-season home opener set against the Minnesota Vikings.

Boosted by a string of nine straight playoff appearances, the star power of quarterback Peyton Manning and a brand new stadium, the Colts haven't had a problem with ticket demand in recent years. But the Colts are coming off a 2-14 season, and Manning has gone to the Denver Broncos.

In late May, Colts officials announced they had 3,000 season tickets remaining. In mid-June, the team for the first time hired an outside ticket sales firm—Indianapolis-based Get Real Sports Sales—to try to sell the remaining inventory. Fewer than half of those were sold.

Things had been so good for the Colts over the last decade, team officials essentially dismantled their sales team.

“It didn’t make sense to keep people on staff because we didn’t have anything to sell,” said Greg Hylton, Colts vice president of premium seating and ticket sales.

When ticket sales plummeted after the 2012 season, it was more efficient to bring in an outside firm than to reconstruct the sales department, Hylton said.

In June, Hylton remained confident the Colts would sell out of season tickets by early August, but a number of factors—including a sluggish economy—have hampered sales.

The 2013 season is a stunning change from the recent past.

Just five years ago, the Colts boasted a season-ticket waiting list of 30,000. Part of that list was diminished by the move from the 54,000-seat RCA Dome to the 63,000-seat Lucas Oil Stadium in 2008.

In 2010, Colts officials said they still had 16,000 people who had paid a $100 deposit to be on the waiting list.

But the season-ticket renewal rate dropped six percentage points, to 87 percent this off-season, shrinking the waiting list to 7,500. And after last year’s disappointing season, and an uncertain future featuring a new general manager, coach and quarterback, most of those left on the list took a pass on available tickets.

Some told the Colts they passed for financial reasons while others said they wanted to wait for better tickets to become available.

While the economy hasn’t helped the Colts, sports business experts say the team might have underestimated the impact of Manning’s exit.

Manning didn’t play last year due to a neck injury. And, in March, instead of paying Manning a big roster bonus written into his contract, Colts owner Jim Irsay decided to cut the all-pro quarterback, who signed a five-year deal to play in Denver. NFL marketing experts say it's likely many Colts fans are still peeved about the move and aren't willing to spend big dollars on the team.

“Peyton is unlike any athlete this market and maybe this league has seen, certainly in many, many years,” said Marc Ganis, a Chicago-based sports business consultant who counts several NFL teams as clients. “It’s an understatement to say he was much beloved in that market. There was a real connection, a kind of uncommon bond, between this guy and the people of Indianapolis. That is difficult to replace.”

But Ward says there’s reason for optimism. Colts training camp in Anderson opened Sunday to a crowd of 5,000 fans, with nearly that many showing again on Monday. Ward said 76 season tickets were sold on Tuesday alone as the “buzz is building.” Much of the training camp is open to the public, and team officials are anticipating 80,000 or more fans will descend on Anderson over the next two weeks.

“The fans are just getting to know our new players and coaches,” Ward said.

Ward added that there's a lot of excitement from fans regarding Andrew Luck, who was drafted No. 1 overall in this year’s draft and is expected to replace Manning as quarterback.

Ward is still optimistic the Colts will sell out all of their regular-season games, keeping alive a streak that dates back more than 10 years.

“So far, the camp has been packed, and that’s what we expect for our [home] games,” Ward said. “The goal is to sell them all out, and that’s what we expect.”


  • Headline
    Why does the headline say "Colts Sellout Streak In Danger..." if it actually is not??
  • agree
    Indyman, totally agree with your post. Take the emotion out of it and look at all the factors, it was a SMART decision by the Colts
  • Yes, a "True Colts Fan"
    Oh, there are "True Colts Fans". I got my season tickets as soon as they were offered to me this year. I wasn't one of the waitlisters who jumped off the bandwagon. I don't agree with the Peyton decision, but I'm not jumping ship just because I disagree with it. I just wanted to point out that people that thought it was a good business decision to drop Peyton (because that's been the only argument) should not whine about another business decision (potential blacked out home games).
  • Gary, I really hate to think you believe what you posted. What Irsay did was for the long term success of the team, not a short sighted, lets make money now, decision. The easy answer would have been to keep Peyton, trade the Luck pick and try for another Superbowl before Peytons time runs out. The problem is with or without Peyton, the team the Colts had at the end of 2011 was in no way going to make a Superbowl and would be lucky to make the playoffs. Between age and injury, our team was depleted. And with no idea if Peyton would last 3 years or 3 plays, keeping him was no sure shot. By picking Luck and unloading Peytons high salary, it has allowed the Colts to quickly rebuild a team that was destined to go nowhere fast. Right now we are setting at the point we were when Peyton came. A highly touted rookie QB with a lot of young up and coming players. At this point we don't know if Luck will be another Peyton or Leaf. But we didn't when Peyton came to town, right Mel Kiper? But right now we have all the hallmarks of another dynasty team. With a little luck, we will be enjoying another 10+ years of playoff success.
    Ballard's boys can now afford Colts tickets with their 31% raises. So maybe there will be another 5 or so sold. Oh I forgot they go for free in the Mayor's Suite or B and T's... Along with their special parking benefit, credit card for meals, car... So all in what are Ballard's Boys making/grafting from the taxpayers?
  • Reality
    In truth most people are not "true Colts fans", they were fans of a group of players they came to know and love. Those players are gone and so is a lot of the interest in the team. If the team had to rely on "true Colts fans" they might never sell out a game again. Broncos games on tv are likely to draw an audience in Indy as big as for Colts games. That's the real reality of the NFL.
  • Business Decision
    Well, for the people that think that dumping Peyton was the best "business decision"... those same people shouldn't get upset about the "business decision" to not take on the NFL's 85% rule for black outs, and the potential for blacked out home games... because that was a "business decision" too. I'm sure some of those same people that said it was the best "business decision" to get rid of Peyton now will be the same ones whining the most if a home game does get blacked out. But, remember, that was a "business decision" too and maybe that will help you feel better about not seeing the game on your TV.
  • What??
    Dream Weaver, questions: 1. Would Denver trade Manning right now for Luck? 2. Does Irsay greed include paying Manning $26 ml. last year for not playing a single down? 3. Would Colts have any chance of winning the Super Bowl this year with Manning, healthy or not? 4. Would Colts have any chance of winning the Super Bowl three yrs from now with a team that SHOULD HAVE BEEN rebuilt around a young, healthy QB (but was not due to cap problems and sentiment)?
  • I agree to a point
    Like you, I moved out of the state to a job in Albuquerque, so with Denver to the north, folks there seem to always talk about Payton. Payton is the NFL in more ways than one. There is no doubt that he help make the team and city what it is today. I think he will continue to carry that on to Denver as well. With that said, it's too early to say that loosing him, the Colts will loose fans or people wont go. I agree people are still upset, but it was a business decision to keep the organization healthy. It's hard from the outside to see it, but Irsay had to do it. Some could argue that he could have kept Payton and got rid of management, and I can see that too. In the end, Indy will still be a Superbowl city, with a good quality team. If Luck is worth his worth, only time will tell, but I think people are taking a wait and see approach. Understand most of the players are no longer with the Colts, so some are waiting to spend hard earned money because of last years performance. Who knows what will happen in a couple of years, the stadium may get emptier, or it maybe busting at the seams.
  • Joke
    your comments show you dont really know much about the NFL, and i guarantee you pretty much just hopped on the bandwagon when the Colts were good and aren't a true fan....so please, move from the state. because i'm tired of hearing from so called 'fans' like you. this was a decision that any other NFL owner/GM would have made, go read any professional and they all say it was the right decision. we got Luck now, and a BRIGHT FUTURE! so go hop on the bandwagon of your next team bc here in indy we wont be missing you.....i actually hope we get rid of fans like yourself.
  • Just the beginning
    The fallout, from last years' decision to release Peyton, was one of the worst decisions the Irsay camp has made, over the course of owning the team. This one may be at the top of the list. The greed, lack of insight, loyalty, and positive thinking, which seems to have plagued the Colts since the Irsay family has owned the team, might be a the last nail in the coffin. Instead of knowing that Indiana would embrace the team, especially when we had one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history,that decison hurt all of us.You just negated any possibility of having another opportunity to make it to the Super Bowl. Your lack of the willingness to work with Mr. Manning, is only going to backfire, in your face. Greed has been one of your family's cross to bear. Mr. Irsay, as a result, you are just beginning to recognize the fallout from that decision.. one that will haunt you the rest of your life. I am so glad that I am moving from this state. The fan base is a loyal base, if they have something, anything, to hang their hat on... showing this country's best QB in history the door, has ramifications,that you are just now seeing. I will follow the Colts until I die, but you have taken some of the pain of leaving my family and friends behind. We, as a city, had pulled together, like nothing I had ever seen; you just ripped it apart. Maybe, it is time to sell the team, or know that Lucas Oil, will probably see diminishing crowds, for years to come. All of my lifelong friends, who live in other states, wanted to know if you may have needed to money to feed your prescription abuse, because you surely were not thinking clearly.

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