Optimism is building that the Indianapolis Colts could break its single-game and even season attendance mark inside their home venue this season as expectations for the team under Coach Chuck Pagano and second-year quarterback Andrew Luck are sky high.
Tens of thousands of fans have poured in to watch the team’s training camp practices in Anderson, including more than 7,000 at last night’s practice under the lights.
The Indianapolis Colts had average home attendance of 65,189 for eight home games last year. After selling standing room only seats and putting people in portable seating, Lucas Oil Stadium was filled to 103.5 percent of capacity for the 2012 season.
And team officials think they could do even better this year.
The team’s eight regular season home games are “basically sold out,” said Colts Chief Operating Officer Pete Ward. The preseason home opener on Sunday is also a sellout. Only a few hundred tickets remain for the second preseason home game Aug. 24 against Cleveland.
The Colts are in a much better position than they were a year ago, when they still had 1,600 tickets to sell for the regular-season home opener just a month before the season.
The sellouts this year mean all the permanent seats are sold and the local television blackout has been lifted. It doesn’t necessarily mean there are no tickets left.
“There are actually some good seats left,” Ward said.
That’s because the Colts are prepared to erect 3,000 or so temporary, folding chairs to accommodate rising demand for tickets.
“Those seats are cushioned and comfortable and are at various levels in the stadium,” Ward said. “If a lot of those seats sell as we think they could, that will take us over capacity.”
Ward, about as low key as any professional sports executive as you’ll meet, acknowledged several games this season—most notably the Oct. 20 Sunday night game against the Peyton Manning-led Denver Broncos—could break the Colts’ single-game attendance record at Lucas Oil Stadium, which opened in 2008.
“That will be a tough ticket to get,” Ward said of the Broncos game. “No question about it.”
The current home attendance record of 67,650 was set Jan. 24, 2010 during the AFC Championship game against the N.Y. Jets.
The record before that was set Nov. 15, 2009, when 67,476 jammed into the stadium to watch the Colts play the New England Patriots. 67,471 filled Lucas Oil Stadium on Dec. 5, 2010 to watch the Colts and Dallas Cowboys.
The all-time attendance record for an NFL game at Lucas Oil Stadium was set at the 2012 Super Bowl, when 68,658 packed the place. If the Colts get on an early-season roll, team officials think that mark might even be within reach.
“When we start talking about breaking 68,000, that’s a pretty good crowd for a market of our size,” Ward said. “But you never know.”
The biggest crowd last year was the Oct. 7 game against Green Bay, when 67,020 watched.
The Colts’ single-season attendance mark at LOS was set during the 2010 season, when 535,802 packed the venue. That’s a per-game average of 66,975 (106.3 percent of capacity).
Fan following for the Colts is growing after last year’s surprise 11-5 season under the leadership of Luck, who was the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. Last year, the Colts were coming off a 2-14 season. This time a year ago, the Colts were still selling tickets for multiple regular season games.
Early this off-season, however, season ticket sales spiked, and Ward says there’s great demand for home games beyond the Denver game.
All the permanent and temporary, folding seats for the Sept. 15 game against Miami and the Oct. 6 game against Seattle have already been sold. That means only standing room only tickets—which are only available to suite holders—and a very few partially obstructed view tickets are available for those games.
Ward isn’t sure why those two games are selling so hot. “There’s really no sign of why that is, but it could be strong group sales,” he said.
One thing is certain. The Colts seem to be as popular as they ever were under the leadership of Manning, who passed the team to a Super Bowl victory in 2007.
“We’re very pleased with the way things are going,” Ward said. “And of course, we’re very appreciative of all the support this community is showing us.”