18to88 reader Paul sends us this thorough review of the new stadium:
On Sunday, August 17th, Lucas Oil Stadium opened its doors (and its walls and roof as well) to season ticket holders for a grand open house. Complete with Indianapolis’ best cover bands, unedited Tom Petty tracks on the loudspeaker (I thought he wanted to roll to another joint), and fans with jaws wide open as they wandered aimlessly around in circles. The rule of the day was if you saw a line, you got in it because it probably would lead you to some place amazing. Case in point the locker rooms were open (can you say shower stall photo op.?) as was the west side of the field. People were lounging on the home side of the field like they were at a Sunday picnic. Literally people were sitting, napping, playing with their kids, etc. The only thing missing were dogs and Frisbees.
In a word the stadium is “retractably-amazing”. Anything and everything that can retract does, which begs the question “why?” Short of getting better blimp aerial shots and hearing John Madden garble the phrase “feat of engineering”, what really was the impetus for all this? My answer was to ask what was the impetus for the pyramids or the hanging gardens of Babylon? None, but sometimes you just gotta show off, and Indiana has been long overdue for a little braggadocio.
Everything looked game ready, except for an unpainted wall on a lower level ramp and some brackets holding up plaques while the glue was still drying. (An observation, unless I missed something, I did not see a single sign, ad spot, plaque, etc. for Eli Lilly Co. Prozac and football don’t mix, I guess.) A sign at the entrance stated, “Forrest and Charlotte Lucas welcome you”. I mentally filled in the rest…”the citizens of Indianapolis to the stadium that your tax dollars paid for”.
The entry-level terrace paid homage to all things Lucas Oil. Drag cars, engines, giant gas pumps, etc. I am sincerely hoping that this is a temporary exhibit and will be gone by game day, but I am sorry to say that it looked pretty permanent. In the days when Big Oil has been vilified by our society, it was a little strange to have “Big Oil Fun Land” greet us at the entrance to the house that Peyton built. If the Colts keep winning however, no one is going to care what it is called. Remember the Bulls with MJ played in the United Center, and airlines have an approval rating somewhere between Congress and the Taliban. So, here’s to winning. We moved quickly through this area and by design this street level entry terrace opens directly to the field. Many stadiums seem to take a page from the Vegas playbook and send you through a labyrinth to find your seats, but 75 feet from entering the North side of the building you were looking over the field. Nice touch.
Navigating the building was easy once I figured out what a “Loge” was. Consider me clueless but seeing this unfamiliar word (evidently pronounced low-je, as in the actor, Robert) on every sign threw me off until I googled it on my phone to figure out what it meant. The standard ramps and elevators did their job helping move people to the upper levels, however the final enclosed steps seemed quite narrow, and with game day traffic will probably lead to a lot of beer spillage and subsequent frowning faces.
Yes, you will be happy to know, there are more seats than the RCA dome. The seats were your basic contoured thick plastic in Colts blue, but as a bonus there are tons of cup holders built in everywhere. The bonus cup holders evidently came in the same upgrade package as the sunroof. From just about every seat the view out of the retractable north wall currently is the old RCA dome. Everyone wiped a small tear observing that the exterior letters are off the dome now, and the old confines have been replaced.
Turning my attention a little west of the retracted wall, there along with its twin in the opposite corner, is the most ridiculously large video screen. They make jumbo-trons look just regular-tron. Many a fan will have to be nudged by their seatmate to notice the action on the field, as they will be convinced that the view is better watching the giant TV that is over an acre away. What is so striking visually from anywhere in the stadium is all the steel and brickwork. It borders on an old baseball stadium feel, but this is the manufacturing belt after all, and we Hoosiers love our steel and bricks (see Fieldhouse, Conseco; and Speedway, Indianapolis Motor). The look works and it gives off a minimalist but finished overall look.
Moving again through the stadium we stopped at a typical concession stand. Not surprisingly the stadium management have decided to continue their movie theater pricing strategy. Lucas Oil Stadium has got to be dangerously close to losing their granted access to the “high life”, but selection was typical with no surprises good or bad. One big oversight in my opinion has got to be the name “Oil Can Grill” that burns in neon over the main north end concession stand. Despite my best efforts, I could not shake images of various wildlife covered in 10W30, a la Exxon Valdez. I, like most people, prefer to have my food kept as far as possible from any and all petroleum products. The marketing guys must have gotten lazy.
Being granted access to the locker room was a surprise. Seeing how many people were clamoring to get a picture of the roped-off shower room was as well. There are fans and then there are super fans (also known by their legal name, “stalkers”). Moving down to the field, questions arose as to the turf surface’s ability to weather the weather if the roof is open allowing in humidity, sunshine, and the occasional rain shower. Despite the ability to open and close it, this is Indiana after all and many a Hoosier claims to have seen it rain on a sunny day. I am sure that someone knows. Also the new executive suites that line the south end zone are somewhat odd. I can picture Harrison catching a TD and then finishing his run with an attempted celebratory jump into the arms of an indifferent trophy wife. There are very good reasons we make the rich people sit in small boxes under the upper deck.
It was a great day at the LUC, despite there being no football, but for the fans and all Hoosiers, this is a stadium that puts us on the map as one of the premier NFL destinations, and we should enjoy that new stadium smell as long as it lasts. For those of you who love to comment, does anyone know what the NFL rules are on when a team can open and close their retractable roof? Can we make sure that Brady has the sun in his eyes, or would this be on par with pumping in crowd noise? Thanks 18to88.com for sending me on assignment.