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New era - and new problems - for Colts
An unprecedented run of success for the Indianapolis Colts came to a screeching halt when star quarterback Peyton Manning missed all of last season following multiple neck surgeries. The Colts are hoping history repeats itself beginning this year, when the franchise rebuilds around quarterback Andrew Luck — the top pick in the 2012 draft — much like it did after Manning was selected first overall in 1998.
But judging by the Colts' season ticket sales, fans are less than enthusiastic at the prospect of this new era.
According to a story posted on the website of RTV6 — the ABC affiliate in Indianapolis — the Colts have retained just 88 percent of their season ticket base following last season's 2-14 finish. There are 1,600 season tickets still available as individual game tickets go on sale Tuesday, August 7.
This year marks the first time since 2003 the Colts have not sold out all of their individual game tickets before the preseason starts. Even the home opener, scheduled to take place against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, September 16, has yet to sell out.
The possibility of empty seats at Lucas Oil Stadium is something the Colts weren't forced to ponder for most of Manning's brilliant 13-season stint, during which Manning won a record four MVPs, the Colts won the Super Bowl once and reached it twice while tying an NFL record with nine straight playoff berths and setting NFL records by winning 12 games in seven straight seasons and by winning 115 games in a decade (2000-2009).
The Indianapolis Business Journal reported this week that the Colts had 30,000 fans on their season ticket waiting list five years ago, when the Colts played at the smaller RCA Dome. Even after moving to Lucas Oil — which houses 63,000 people, nine thousand more than the RCA Dome — the Colts still had a waiting list of 16,000 in 2010.
But the Colts' awful 2011 season — which began with 13 straight losses and a flirtation with only the second 0-16 campaign in NFL history — coupled with the release of Manning (who signed a five-year deal with the Denver Broncos) and a stagnant economy resulted in a drop of six percent on season ticket renewals. The waiting list, meanwhile is down to 7,500, and the Indianapolis Business Journal reports most of the people on the list declined the opportunity to buy season tickets this year.
The Colts' struggles at the gate puts a pair of streaks in jeopardy. The Colts have sold out their last 79 home games, which means, of course, every one of those games has been televised live within a 75-mile radius.
While the Colts will likely sell some or all of their remaining season tickets as well as plenty of individual tickets, they will need to fill every single seat in order to keep the streak of sellouts and no blackouts alive. The Colts have said they will not follow the NFL's new blackout policy, which allows teams to keep home games on TV as long as they reach their own pre-determined minimum number of tickets sold (between 85 and 99 percent).
The opening of training camp last weekend provided the Colts a bit of sales momentum. Senior vice president Pete Ward told the Indianapolis Business Journal that about 5,000 fans showed up to the first practices on Sunday, July 29 and Monday, July 30 and that the team sold 76 season ticket packages on Tuesday, July 31.
"So far, the camp has been packed, and that's what we expect for our [home] games," Ward told the newspaper. "The goal is to sell them all out, and that's what we expect."