It was on the snowy night of March 28, 1984, when the Baltimore Colts became the Indianapolis Colts. After loading everything they could remove from their Maryland training complex into twelve moving vans, the Colts made the long journey to Indianapolis, departing before the Maryland General Assembly could enact a law to allow Baltimore to seize ownership of the team from owner Robert Irsay. Only upon the Colts’ arrival to Indianapolis did the city’s residents learn that the rumors were true: they now had a football team. What they did not yet know was that they were welcoming a franchise that in two decades would come to dominate their division and even win a Superbowl. Today, the home of the Indianapolis Colts is Lucas Oil Stadium.
In the early 1980s, city officials led by Mayor William Hudnut hoped to attract a football team to the city and built a stadium to further their chances. The Hoosier Dome (renamed the RCA Dome in 1994), opened to the public for the first time to welcome the Colts to the city. City leaders figured the 58,000-seat Hoosier Dome into their larger strategy to make Indianapolis a sports capital, a vision that included Market Square Arena (1974), the Indianapolis Tennis Center (1979), the Indiana University Natatorium (1982), the IU Track and Field Stadium, and the National Institute for Fitness and Sport (1988).
The Colts’ first few years at the Hoosier Dome were not easy. They had to deal with legal challenges from Baltimore, where the team had been founded in 1953, and losing seasons. Nevertheless, Indianapolis fans still supported the team in sold-out games. By the early 1990s, the team’s record was dismal. In 1991 the Colts went 1—15. After changes in coaching and team management, the team began a dramatic turnaround which by 1995 and 1996 landed Indianapolis in two consecutive playoffs. The team fell backwards in 1997, but its slow rise to dominance began when it acquired quarterback Peyton Manning, the number-one draft pick of 1998. The Colts started to rise in standings and their numbers of wins increased. Between 2000 and 2010, the Colts reached seven division championship games, winning four.
In the midst of this, ground was broken for a new stadium (today Lucas Oil), in concurrence with a contract to keep the Colts in the city for another thirty years. Though the Colts had been having winning seasons, it wasn’t until the 2006 season that they made it all the way to the end. After coming from behind to beat the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship played at home, the Colts moved on to Superbowl XLI.
On February 4, 2007, their skilled playing was rewarded when they won the Superbowl over the Chicago Bears 29-17. As the team and Coach Tony Dungy celebrated their win in a sea of blue and white confetti, cheering Colts fans poured in to the streets of Indianapolis. Peyton Manning had an especially good night as he was also named MVP of the game. Quarterback of the Colts between 1998 and 2011, some refer to Lucas Oil Stadium as the “House that Peyton Built.” His strong leadership contributed to the team’s winning record.
The 67,000-seat Lucas Oil Stadium officially opened in August 2008, dominating the southwest part of downtown and boasting a retractable roof. The stadium includes 137 luxury suites. Lucas Oil purchased the naming rights for 20 years for $121 million. Lucas Oil Stadium hosted the Superbowl in 2012, another exciting chapter in Indianapolis’ sports history.