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.

Sports Business

Colts nearing season sellout despite tempered expectations

August 10, 2016
KEYWORDS Sports Business

It’s still a little more than a month before the Indianapolis Colts season opener on Sept. 11 at Lucas Oil Stadium, but already the team is nearing a season sellout.

Five of the eight regular season home games are technically sold out, though in-fill seats could—and likely will—be added for those games. Only about 500 tickets remain for each of three other home games—Nov. 20 vs. Tennessee, Dec. 11 vs. Houston and Jan. 1 vs. Jacksonville.

Lucas Oil Stadium has a bit more than 63,000 permanent seats. With the in-fill seats, the stadium can be expanded to about 68,000.

The Colts sell the vast majority of their seats through season ticket sales, but hold out several hundred per game for single-game ticket buyers and group sales. Single-game tickets went on sale last month, and, despite coming off an 8-8 season last year, team officials are confident all the 2016 games will sell out.

Tickets for the Oct. 9 home game against the Chicago Bears are the most in demand, according to Colts officials and ticket brokers.  

“The Bears game is by far and away the best game of the year in terms of ticket demand,” said Renny Harrison, owner of Carmel-based Fanfare Tickets. “The Steelers game [Nov. 24] would be right there with it, if it were not Thanksgiving night.”

Harrison added that demand on the secondary market for the Colts home opener is significantly higher than it has been in recent years. The game against Detroit kicks off at 4:25 p.m.

“The last couple of years the season opened at home with a night game, and that can hurt ticket demand,” Harrison said. “Those can be difficult for some people—older people or people with kids—to attend."

Most of that demand for the Bears game is coming from Colts fans and Bears fans from Chicago who have difficulty getting tickets at Soldier Field, said Colts Chief Operating Officer Pete Ward. There’s also a sizable Bears fan base in and around Indianapolis, but Ward said that’s a secondary driver.

Tickets for the Colts home games against Pittsburgh at 8:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving and the Oct. 30 contest against Kansas City also are in high demand, Ward said.

“The Pittsburgh Steelers are a national brand and always draw well, and fans from Kansas City usually travel well,” Ward said. “As far as the Bears game, we get a lot of people coming down from Chicago but they’re never anywhere near the number of fans that are there cheering for the Colts.”

Colts season ticket holders got a heftier bill this offseason and two big promises from team owner Jim Irsay.

Irsay pledged—in a letter to season ticket holders in February—that despite a disappointing season in 2015 that did not include a trip to the playoffs, the team will perform better in 2016. And there would be no ticket price increases for 2017.

The ticket price hikes for this season ranged from 1.4 percent to 6.3 percent, depending on seat location. Overall, Ward said the increases averaged about 4 percent. He added that Colts have averaged only a 2 percent year-over-year increase since Lucas Oil Stadium opened in 2008.

On the secondary market, Harrison said “the volume of ticket sales are similar to last year, but the resale value of tickets is 15 [percent] to 20 percent lower this year compared to last year.” Last year, the Colts came into the season being projected as Super Bowl contenders.

“It’s a difficult decision to make on pricing this year, because no one knows what the season will hold,” Harrison said. “This year, we don’t see nearly the momentum we did last year with the Colts. There’s a lot more waiting and seeing how they play.”

There’s one other big factor hurting overall Colts ticket prices on the secondary market.

“We don’t have those two blockbuster games we did last year,” Harrison said. “We don’t have that Broncos game and we don’t have that Patriots game. The Bears game is fantastic, but not quite at the level of the Broncos and Patriots.”

To see the Colts 2016 schedule, click here.


Comments powered by Disqus