INDIANAPOLIS - Did the Colts sacrifice a bit of a home-field advantage in return for the luxury of a new stadium?
When the Patriots visited the Colts last night at the pristine new Lucas Oil Field, both the retractable roof and a panoramic window above the north end zone were open on a cool evening, breathing a little of the outdoors into a city that played its previous 25 seasons inside the seemingly hermetically sealed RCA Dome.
The crowd noise at the Colts' old home was seen as a big advantage as visiting teams often struggled to relay offensive signals. The Colts entered last night's game 1-2 at "The Luke," falling to Chicago and Jacksonville before beating Baltimore Oct. 12.
Regardless of whether that home-field advantage is seeping out the four acres of open air that are revealed when the roof is open (the window in the north end zone closed before kickoff), the Colts like their new digs.
"The new stadium is beautiful," said tight end Dallas Clark. "It's definitely different than the RCA Dome in many areas, but I think . . . we're getting used to it and I think we're getting comfortable with it. But it's a great, great thing for the city and for the fans of Indianapolis. I think everyone [has] been excited to play in it this year. But in the same sense, definitely getting used to it took a little time. But it's a fun place to play and play a game."
The stadium covers 168,257,373 square feet or almost 39 total acres in downtown Indianapolis. The RCA Dome remains a Peyton Manning throw away, but the Teflon-coated roof is now sagging in and the stadium is set for implosion Dec. 20.
Lucas Oil Stadium - designed by HKS out of Dallas - is a sea of Colt blue, with all the chair backs in that hue save for a horseshoe-shaped patch of white chairs in the north end zone. Two gigantic digital video scoreboards hang across from each other in the northwest and southeast corners.
The stadium holds 63,000 during the regular season and has an expandable capacity of 74,595 for the 2012 Super Bowl.
Outside, an old-fashioned saloon-style Colts sign hangs amid giant posters of superstars like Manning and Bob Sanders. The exterior facade features 980,000 bricks (which the team notes, if lined up, would span 185 miles - or the distance to Chicago).
Lucas Oil paid $120 million over 20 years for the naming right Peyton's new place.
Given all the new bells and whistles, would anyone miss the RCA Dome?
"Probably not too much," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said earlier this week.
"All of the combines, it is an annual NFL convention and all of the college players and everything, there have been some interesting moments there - Deion Sanders running a 40 straight off into the tunnel and stuff like that. It is always a little bit of mixed feelings when you see these stadiums that had so many great moments in them, both ways, go. RFK [Stadium]. The RCA Dome, now it is going to be Giants Stadium and even Foxboro [Stadium]. They all had their certain moments that were special. We are onto another age. Mile High [Stadium].We are all moving on."
But the Patriots have enjoyed some quality moments at RCA.
"Probably last year," Belichick said when asked about fond memories in Indianapolis. "Last November, that would be one good one. We have had a few up there - Willie McGinest's stop on the goal line [in 2003] - put that up there, too."
Chris Forsberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.