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The Score - Anthony Schoettle

Welcome to The Score, your place for hard-hitting sports business news, fast-breaking updates and fuel-injected debate.  Buckle up.  I'm your host, Anthony Schoettle, IBJ sports reporter.

Colts / Lucas Oil Stadium / NFL / Sports Business

For Colts, better to be lucky than good

November 9, 2009

Sitting at yesterday’s game it occurred to me—again—just how financially fortunate the Indianapolis Colts are.

Colts officials are cashing checks from their 20-year, $121.5 million title sponsorship deal for Lucas Oil Stadium while Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is still hunting for a title sponsor for the eighth wonder of the world down in Texas.

The Colts have multi-year (most of them seven years or longer) leases for all but a handful of 137 luxury suites, while the Jets and Giants recently hired an outside firm to help sell suites in their soon-to-be-open new home.

Colts officials didn’t sell five or so suites on a multi-year deal so they could sell them on a game-by-game basis. It’s good business to have a broad crowd sampling the stadium’s most expensive product. With all the other suites sold out for years, it creates a real feeling of exclusivity people want to be a part of.

Those multi-year leases deals bring in between $40,000 and $275,000 annually for the Colts, and that’s before you figure in parking, food and other ancillary sales.

The economy has indeed hit the once iron-clad National Football League. But the Colts have almost completely sidestepped the financial blitz.
 
Indianapolis is one of 11 franchises in the 32-team NFL that so far this season is averaging at least 100 percent capacity at its home games. Through the first half the season, the Colts are averaging 104.7 percent of capacity, bringing in just under 66,000 per regular season game.

On a percentage basis, the Colts are second to only Dallas, who is stuffing 122.3 percent of capacity into its behemoth facility. They must really be jamming them in those luxury suites. New Orleans is third on a percentage basis, filling the Super Dome to 102.8 percent of capacity.

All 32 teams on average are filling to 96.1 percent capacity. Hardly a crisis to jump up and down about, but still it’s a nearly 3 percent decline from last season, and for the NFL, that’s pretty eye opening. And remember, the Cowboys' ridiculous numbers in their new stadium are skewing everything up at least a couple percent.

Yes, it’s true big-market teams like Washington and New York still bring in 10,000 plus more fans per game than the small-market Colts. But all in all, the Colts are doing just fine.

Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. And I’m not saying the Colts sales staff isn’t good, because I think they’ve played all the cards they’ve been dealt just right.

But if Lucas Oil Stadium is built  just a year later, there’s likely no stadium sponsor, there’s probably a lot more vacant suites the sales team is hustling to sell on a game-by-game basis, that air of exclusivity would deflate faster than the old RCA Dome roof, and the financial fortunes of this team look a whole lot different.

 

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