Review originally published on www.StadiumJourney.com
Opened in 2008, at an eye-popping cost of $720 million, Lucas Oil Stadium is one of the absolute jewels of professional sports stadiums, located in perhaps the best downtown sports cities in the country.
In 2009, Stadium Journey named Lucas Oil Stadium as the best stadium in the NFL, and our return visit in 2010 lived up to those expectations.
The stadium generally has a capacity of 63,000, but that can be extended to 70,000 for special events such as the Super Bowl (to be hosted at Lucas Oil Stadium in 2012) and the NCAA Final Four (which will return to Indianapolis in 2015).
The amazing thing about Lucas Oil Stadium is that it manages to feel immense and intimate at the same time. It is the second smallest NFL home field, next to Chicago’s Soldier Field, yet it feels overwhelmingly large. The walk down the ramp from the top level to the bottom took me 15 minutes, and I move fairly briskly. This is important to know, because if you choose to go up the escalator, that escalator is up only until the start of the fourth quarter, so getting down will take some time.
It is an architectural marvel with its retractable roof and sliding window wall on the north end of the stadium, which looks out to downtown Indianapolis.
Food & Beverage 4/5
There are plenty of options at Lucas Oil Stadium, but nothing that you haven’t seen before. The menu is stadium-priced, so you will definitely need to budget appropriately.
I tried the Papa John’s personal pizza for eight dollars, and the BBQ pork sandwich for eight dollars. Both were good, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed, except when taking the money out of your wallet.
Other tasty morsels included the Pot Roast sandwich (eight dollars), Johnsonville Brat ($5.75), and Stadium Dog for $4.75. The concourse smells great from all of the dogs, brats and Philly cheese steaks being cooked on the interior part of the concourse.
Beverages include several draft beers for $7.50. The most prevalent seemed to be Budweiser, Bud Light, Miller Lite, Coors Light, Amstel Light, Bass and Blue Moon. Coke products are available for $5.50 in a souvenir 32 ounce cup, or $4.50 for the regular size cup. My coke lasted me for the entire game, and about an hour of my drive home, so while it’s expensive, you shouldn’t need a second.
Two HD video boards sit in opposing diagonal corners of Lucas Oil Stadium, so even if you don’t have the best angle for a particular play, you can see everything on a 97 by 53 foot screen.
There really is no bad seat. During the game, I made the rounds to take in at least some of the action from the very deepest nosebleed, right down to the VIP field level (or what they call street level). I’ve found that generally, the very first row sounds great, but it is actually a little too close to the action to get a good view of the game. I would recommend going at least 15 rows up, and depending on your preference, try an upper deck seat as close to the front as possible for a perspective you just can’t get when you watch on TV.
The roof was closed on my visit, a decision that the Colts make each game about 90 minutes before kickoff. I would have liked to experience the feel with the roof open, but it does make it very comfortable to enjoy the game as a fan, without any elements interfering.
Every seat in the stadium is comfortable, with ample legroom. Clearly the team didn’t try to cram as many seats in as possible, sacrificing fan comfort for profit, and I appreciate that.
The team also does a good job of utilizing the video screens for special promotions, announcements, fan shots etc. without being too much of a distraction from the game.
Each time that I have visited Indianapolis for a sporting event, I have walked away feeling extremely impressed. Whether you are in town for the Colts, Pacers, minor league Indianapolis Indians, AHL Indiana Ice or the Indianapolis 500, you will have plenty of great options nearby. Plus historic Hinkle Fieldhouse is only about six miles north of downtown, another Indy must see.
From Lucas Oil Stadium, just walk north and choose the option that’s right for you. I checked in at a couple of Breweries/Restaurants, and enjoyed both.
My first stop was at the RAM Brewery & Restaurant. It’s about a half mile walk, and you’ll find the place filled with Colts fans in blue jerseys before or after games. They offer seven hand-crafted beers on tap, and you could also come by to pick up a growler if you just wanted some local beer for your tailgating party.
I ordered the Stadium Burger, because it just seemed like the right choice. The toppings were fresh, the burger was cooked well, and overall I thought it was above average. They also offer a seven dollar “Proud Mary” bloody mary, loaded with a skewer of accoutrements, which I would have ordered if I noticed it sooner. Instead I tried the Big Red IPA, which came in a giant mug for the low price of $3.50- a great bargain. The menu consists mostly of burgers, sandwiches, and appetizers all for around $9-$12.
Next, I crossed the street to the Alcatraz Brewing Company. They also offered seven hand-crafted beers on draft, and I tried the Big House Red for comparison sake (it was too close to call). The menu at Alcatraz is a bit more varied, and the service was a bit faster, in part because there was less of a crowd. For the most part, the food is a cut above the typical bar food- I went with a cup of clam chowder, just to try something outside of the region, and thought it was very good. You could also stop in for a growler of beer here for $14, and take it back to the parking lot for your tailgating.
If you want to go a little more upscale, try St. Elmo’s Steakhouse, located in the same general vicinity. The restaurant has been around for over 100 years, and that usually means good things. They offer special menus for both Colts and Pacers games.
Colts fans are loyal, attentive, loud and polite to visitors. It’s a rare package of total devotion without sacrificing complete regard for those around them. Visiting fans were treated with good-natured ribbing, but with hospitality. Despite the inordinate amount of success since Peyton Manning came to town, the fans seem to have an appreciation for how special this franchise has been, and want to make the most of every moment.
I was also impressed that the majority of fans had blue Colts jerseys on. That means that there are at least 32,000 people wearing blue jerseys with Manning, Clark, Wayne and others on the back. Be careful not to get separated from the crowd you came with, because it may be difficult to find them.
Downtown stadiums, especially for football, can be a real problem when it comes to traffic before and after a game, but I found Lucas Oil Stadium very easy to get into and out of, without any major delays. It helps that you’re just blocks away from major interstates I-70 and I-65.
Parking will cost you anywhere from $5-$20 depending on proximity. This is a very reasonable price considering some NFL stadiums will cost you as much as $50 for parking alone. The stadium website reports that there are approximately 40,000 parking spots within a 10-block area, so you should have no problem finding a place to leave your ride.
Bathrooms in the stadium are large, clean and found frequently throughout the concourse. Even at halftime, you shouldn’t find a line, another huge plus as it means you don’t have to leave your seat and miss any of the action unnecessarily.
Return on Investment 5/5
Lucas Oil Stadium is well worth the cost for the visit. Tickets start at $48 (end zone upper deck). You can find reasonably good seats starting at $79 (500 and 600 level tickets on the sideline, upper deck). With the costs of parking and food thrown in, you could get away with a trip costing only $70 with food, beer, ticket and parking. The stadium has a great energy that is worth the price, and probably more in my opinion.
One extra point awarded for the great sports town that Indianapolis certainly is. I think it can be argued that this may be the best downtown sports area in the United States.
Great mascot work here as well, an important part of a complete stadium experience. Blue, the Colt, tirelessly makes his way around the stadium interacting with fans, and they even have a Blue Jr. costume that they allow one lucky kid to enjoy for a quarter or so.
The fans are tremendous, and classy in their conduct, nearly without exception.
Finally, the state of the art building, and the instant excitement and goose bumps that I felt upon entry, are worth some bonus points as well.
Lucas Oil Stadium is a first class venue that should be on the to-do list for any serious sports traveler. The entire experience is great from entering the city to driving away, and you will be left with few complaints or regrets. If your team is visiting Indianapolis, this would make for a great road trip, and if you’re a Colts fan, then you should absolutely make plans to visit the Oil Can as soon as possible.
Paul Swaney is the Co-Founder of Stadium Journey