Cost of stadium's retractable roof still bone of contention

December 22, 2011
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It’s pretty safe to say that barring some type of meteorological miracle, the roof on Lucas Oil Stadium won’t be open for tonight’s Indianapolis Colts game.

Most people would understand that decision with rain and cold in the forecast. But on days like Dec. 18, when the skies were clear and game-time temperatures were in the 40s, the same pesky questions arise about the usefulness of the retractable roof in such a climate and the expense of making the stadium a convertible.

It’s difficult for architects and engineers who worked on the stadium to pinpoint the exact cost of adding a retractable roof as opposed to a stationary one. Or maybe they just don’t want to. But it’s true that some of the same materials and engineering would be used whether it was retractable or not.

One thing is certain. The cost isn’t insignificant. Construction experts pegged it between $70 million and $90 million. That’s roughly 10 percent or more of the entire cost of the $720 million structure. It should be noted that a good chunk of the expense comes from local residents—in one form or another.

All and all, though, there’s still a solid argument for the roof.

First, it should be pointed out that several events have been drawn to the facility—from marching band competitions to the Big Ten Football Championships—because it has the flexibility to be an indoor or outdoor venue. It also was included in the U.S.'s World Cup Soccer bid due to its retractable roof.

The Indianapolis Colts and Capital Improvement Board usually open the roof if it’s between 50 and 80 degrees with no chance of precipitation. It was decided when they designed the facility that it would be too expensive to put drainage inside to whisk off rain water and make the electronics waterproof.

It's also a considerable cost to bring the temperatures back to a pleasent 68 degree range if the roof is open and the temperature inside the stadium soars too high or plunges too low. Think about how much it costs to bring the temperatures in your relatively small house back under control after the HVAC has been shut off for a while.

Despite these constraints, the roof on the stadium—which opened in 2008—has been retracted for 21 Colts home games. Texas Stadium, the $1.1 billion home of the Dallas Cowboys that opened in 2009, has opened its roof for two games.

I’m not approved by the American Meteorological Association, but I’d have to guess the weather in North Texas is a little more conducive to popping the top of the stadium than Indianapolis.

Despite the fact that Lucas Oil Stadium’s roof has been retracted 10 times more often than its Texas counterpart and it is a selling point to some groups, this debate isn’t likely to float away in the wind anytime soon—whether the roof is open or not.

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  • Roof over our heads
    I'd rather sit in 40 degree weather here for a game than 105 degrees in TX. Both roofs are a huge waste of funds that we'll be paying for after they demolish Lucas for a newer stadium in 20 years. Did we ever get the Hoosier/RCA Dome paid for?
  • JR
    Surely you have something else to blog about other than this tired old news story. It's here to stay like it or not, let it be.
  • Its a guaranteed hit maker. Post about a subject that is a sore spot for some, and the website will get hits. It seems odd that this blog typically does not post more than two or three times a week, but has now posted daily and about issues that are going to pull out people on both sides. This is Kravitz type pandering that is unfortunate.

    As to the subject, basically the blog posting is about a feature on the stadium that no one knows the cost of and don't know that value the feature has for attracting events. Not sure why else the subject is blog worthy at this time. As well, it could be said that Irsay paid for the roof with the approx $100 million he contributed to the project. There you go Anthony, you owe me for bringing some more hits to the blog.

    Of course Elaine took the bait hook, line an sinker.
  • Time to Learn Math or Typing
    "Despite these constraints, the roof on the stadium—which opened in 2008—has been retracted for 21 Colts home games. Texas Stadium, the $1.1 billion home of the Dallas Cowboys that opened in 2009, has opened its roof for two games."

    hmmm...21 minus two is 19...but it was 12 minus 2 then we would get the ten you speak of.

    • To Rob
      Rob - Hope your foot tastes good.

      Here's what Anthony wrote:

      "Despite the fact that Lucas Oil Stadium’s roof has been retracted 10 times more often than its Texas counterpart...."

      Two times 10 equals 20. So, who needs to learn math??
    • Spin Again
      Did the retractable roof really influence the Big 10 for a early Dec game? That sounds far-fetched.

      Indyman, why so quick to critize those that express their opinion (Elaine) and then provide the same old spin on Irsay's contribution? Tsk tsk.
    • Living in the past
      I supppose that the same people that are complaining about the cost of the roof also want Indiana to bring back Bobby Knight, repeal DST, eliminate class HS basketball, rebuild the Mirmar Club, reserect Choc-Ola, reboot Dog & Suds... Wait a minute... Other than Knight & DST, those are good ideas. Suck for Luck.
    • Ummm...
      ....Indyman, if Elaine took the bait, then you took the whole danged fishin' pole, my friend.
    • Not outdoors
      Just want to point out that in no way with the roof open is this an outdoor stadium. Nothing beats watching a football game outdoors no matter what the weather...except rain.

      This is like calling a car with a tiny sunroof a convertible.

      I've been to games w the roof both open and shut and there isn't much difference. kinda cool to have it open, but you don't feel outdoors and being 'cool' doesn't support the almost 100 million price tag
    • Over 50%?
      I am shocked to learn that the roof has been opened for over 50% of Colts home games played since 2008. I enjoy it when the roof is open but when factoring cost, believe it was not worth it.

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