Reich hire could help Colts in long run, but some season-ticket holders are in selling mood

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The Indianapolis Colts’ hiring of Frank Reich as the team's head coach on Sunday was a case of great timing. But it hasn’t completely assuaged season-ticket holders’ fears.

Under Coach Chuck Pagano and behind back-up quarterback Jacoby Brissett, the Colts went 4-12 last season, and a fair number of fans can’t seem to let that go.

The Colts faithful began receiving season ticket renewals in the mail Monday, one day after the Colts hired Reich. On Monday, area ticket brokers' phones started ringing—a lot.

Renny Harrison, owner of Carmel-based FanFare Tickets, said his company is getting up to 30 percent more calls from Colts season-ticket holders looking to unload their tickets this year than in previous years.

“There are a lot of sellers right now,” Harrison said. “It’s a challenge for [ticket brokers] to know what to buy.”

Harrison called this year “atypical” in terms of Colts tickets.

“The normal pattern is my company and my competitors are jockeying for position and figuring out what to pay,” Harrison said. “Now, we’re being very selective.”

Due to the larger than normal supply and the team’s uncertain future, Harrison said his firm is only looking at Colts tickets in certain areas of the lower bowl of the 63,000-seat Lucas Oil Stadium.

After talking to a bevy of Colts season ticket holders, Harrison said that “for some reason, the spirit has changed.”

“A lot of Colts season ticket holders are on the fence,” Harrison said. “If they can’t get their money back from [the secondary market], they’re seriously thinking about not renewing.”

Harrison explained that some Colts season-ticket holders regularly sell their entire ticket package to brokers to make money, and some only do so in disappointing seasons while waiting for brighter days to return to the games. Some season ticket holders will sell some of their games in a season and go to others.

“Some season-ticket holders lost a lot of money [on tickets they sold on the secondary market] last year, so they’re testing the market earlier this year,” Harrison said.

Harrison thinks Reich’s hire “is a good thing” and in time could bolster demand.

Colts Chief Operating Officer Pete Ward said it’s “way too early” to tell how Reich’s hire will affect the team’s ticket sales for the upcoming season. But he added the Colts have had “plenty of positive feedback.”

Colts season-ticket holders must pay their bill by March 8 or forfeit their tickets. So we’ll know how Reich’s hire has affected the outlook soon enough.

The Colts certainly made the best of a bad situation, given the fiasco last week with New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. After the Colts announced him as the new coach on Tuesday, McDaniels jilted them later in the day.

Reich’s hire on Sunday came right before season-ticket holders began receiving their renewal notices in the mail.

While Reich isn’t exactly a household name, especially to casual football fans, it certainly beats having no coach when season-ticket holders start contemplating shelling out big bucks for those tickets.

“When you’re in a position of needing to revitalize your brand … the coach is one big part of it,” said Larry DeGaris, director of sports marketing at the University of Indianapolis.

So far, DeGaris likes what he sees from Reich.

“He exudes class,” DeGaris said. “Of course, it all comes down to winning and losing.”

The local press appears to mostly love Reich—which certainly can’t hurt the Colts’ sales efforts. There’s certainly a sharp contrast between the way Reich and McDaniels were being received by the local media. McDaniels seemed to give rise to a healthy dose of skepticism—and apparently rightfully so.

Of course, the players are another big piece of the puzzle. And the uncertain status of star quarterback Andrew Luck is most certainly on more than a few fans’ minds. Luck missed the entire season last year due to a shoulder injury. Fans surely remember the proclamation of team owner Jim Irsay during the pre-season that Luck would be ready for the regular season.

“The Colts are the dominant [sports] brand in this market,” said DeGaris, who has conducted a recent in-depth poll of area sports fans. “And that’s not likely to change. But the Colts would certainly get a boost from Luck’s return. Unfortunately for the team and fans, that uncertainty remains.”

Mike Peduto, president of locally based Circle City Tickets, said overall his company is offering 20 percent to 30 percent less for Colts tickets this year than in previous years.

“About the only seats right now worth a premium are the seats just outside the club seats,” Peduto said. And that decline, Peduto said, comes despite a more appealing home slate of games this year than last year.

Circle City Tickets, however, won’t pay face value for the pricey club seats, Peduto said. “We just don’t see the demand.”

“The people we have talked to are optimistic about the hire of Frank Reich, and we’re hopeful demand will return,” Peduto said.

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