Monday, August 18, 2008

A Visit to Lucas Oil Stadium

(NOTE: This post will have a permanent home on
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 for sending me on assignment.


Anonymous said...

Loved your critique of the stadium, and your consummate sense of humor. It was almost as if I were there. big mac

Why does the roof and wall retract?
My guess is to let in the falcons.

chipbennett said...

Great review! Wish I could have been there.

NFL rules on roof-retraction: the decision must be made by 90 minutes prior to kickoff. At that point, if it's open it stays open, and if it's closed it stays closed. (From what I've read, anyway.)

BD said...

Well done! I really wish I could have been there for that. But, I sorta feel like I was anyway. Good job.

Anonymous said...

My thought is so people can shut up about the "pumped in" crowd noise.

Bob M. said...

What? They didn't show even season-ticket-holders the "crowd noise pumps?" I am aghast.

Great review--thanks. A little good humor goes a long way, too. Reminds me of when Seattle got the first of her two new stadia, named for Safeco Insurance--one local cartoonist drew a guy outside reading the name on the sign. In tiny print, it said "The Citizens of Washington, many of whom are customers of (and then giant print) SAFECO, FIELD." And Billionaire Paul Allen paid for a special election so the citizens of WA could vote to pony up about $400M to pay for most of his stadium a couple years later. I suppose it is, sigh, the price of progress and success. Seattle's two fields are pretty neat, so I am looking forward to a pilgrimage to the LUC some day with my kids to watch a game live. Then again, it's a long trip from Seattle and unless it's a Sat game, very hard to get them back in time for school Monday morning.... For now, I live vicariously. Thanks again for the cool review.

Picky said...

Well, I only have one seat, so I elected to take my family to the public tour on Saturday. Boy, what a mistake that was! They didn't open the entire stadium, only certain sections, and you couldn't go on the field, just on the sideline. You were allowed to stand in line to walk PAST the locker room/ suites, but you couldn't go in. The lines for these were 45 minutes long, so I didn't bother.
It took us 40 minutes (no joke) to get from the North entrance door to the up escalator there in the plaza. That's how packed it was.

You know, I loved the look of the stadium, but the public tour royally sucked. If they had said I could bring my family to the season ticket tour, I would have, but I only had the one ticket, and I wasn't going to drive all the way down there two days in a row, just to see the same stadium.

Picky said...

Actually, I think that I heard if the roof is open at the beginning, it stays open, unless weather threatens, and the officials decide to close it. If they decide to close it, it stays closed, no matter what happens outside.

What I want to know is this: what are the rules for the big window being open or shut, because that can affect wind.

Demond Sanders said...

It's a thing of beauty.

The only thing I'm worried about is based on the photo Paul took from our new seats (not shown in the article) they look really far away from the field.

Hoping this is an optical illusion.

Julio Queiroz said...

Really great critique, Paul.
I hope I can get some time off before the end of the year to pay a visit to Indianapolis and the Stadium.

Rob-Westside said...

It's not an optical illusion. I was there too. And I hate to rain on the parade but I was not very happy. Of course my mood was worsened because of the whole "we got screwed on our seat placement situaton" (See the Indystar article from last year), but I'm afraid it was worse then I feared (our section 619 (SE corner) is about the worst section in the building). The 600 sections are MUCH higher and MUCH further away from the field then at the dome. Also be sure to note that the 500 and 600 sections are what is referred to as the Terrace level (if you don't know that you'll have trouble finding your seat). The day itself was chaos personified. I'd HIGHLY reccomend everyone get to the stadium VERY early the first few games. People flow did not seem to be well thought out but maybe it will be better on game day. One thing that is really sticking in my "craw" is the decisions the Colts made on ticket pricing levels. The 600 section which is high and far is only a $10 difference from the lowest section in the endzone. Somebody please explain that to me? Also seats that are in the endzone but lower than me are only $34 (compared to my $74) I don't get it. Overall the building is big, it's "pretty", but it's not cozy. It won't be very loud so at least we won't have to hear the crowd noise complaints anymore. It will be very nice for the suite and club holders but as usual the big fans up in the upper deck were an afterthought. I'm still left with this sense of having something taken from us. I know life isn't fair and this is obviously a very trivial thing. There are what 10-20K people on the season ticket waiting list that would love to have my seats but at some point being a season ticket holder from day one you just figure they owe you a little bit more. Well our solution is that we'll probably sell half our tickets this year (to Colts fans only) and use the proceeds to buy a BIG HDTV to watch the games. We'll have a better view.

Leann said...

I'm a huge Colts fan and am looking forward to the new season in the new stadium. But, I just had a moment of horror when I stopped to think about the initials of the stadium. Now I know that they're going to call it the LUC, but the actual initials spell LOS...or loss. Hopefully that's an indication of what our opponents will be leaving the stadium with and not the Colts.

Demond Sanders said...


That sucks about your seats.

I know its impossible for everyone to have the same view they had in the Dome, but it sucks to go into the new building on a bad note.

I'm obviously witholding judgment until I see our seats, but count me worried. According to JMV on 1260 there are a lot of people who are not happy about their new seats.

Rob-Westside said...

I'll be very interested to hear your feelings after the first game. Being in the corner will be such a different perspective for me. Maybe I'll be surprised...but we went out and bought the big TV tonight so at least I'll have a good seat at home. Just hoping that I'm not watching huge gaping holes on defense this season...Thank God the Zombie is back!

Anonymous said...

Welcome to a corporate Football, people - you will be blinded and overwhelmed by all the advertisements - financed by the good people of Indiana.

Let me start off with the Good:
- big window with an nice view. Gives a good breeze too.
- cupholders. gotta love the cupholders. (except I'm sitting by a 7 ft. guy whose leg goes into the cupholder so if I want my drink I have to touch him.)
- individual seats. (no more getting squeezed out when we are standing up.)
-lots of food choices. didn't seem to be huge lines for these things.

the bad:
- 2 ESCALATORS? No stairs available to GO UP. (Only to go out to the street after the game). Elevators are hard to find.
- our view sucks compared to what we previously had and we are still paying MORE money for our tickets!
-is it too much to ask for auto flush toilets?
-hallways are not open feeling. you can't walk around the entire concourse on the upper levels.
-advertisement screen around the dome gives me a huge headache. hopefully it doesn't give anyone seizures from the way it moves all the time.
-where our seats are we can't tell if the roof is open or closed. it feels really dark where we are.