Rain Delay

$720 million stadium, 10-cent roof


You can forgive football fans in Indianapolis for dropping their nachos when they learned about a glitch in the shiny new Lucas Oil Stadium the city built for the Indianapolis Colts: The facility isn't waterproof. That came as a surprise, because Colts owner Jim Irsay insisted his new stadium include one of those fancy retractable roofs all the other football owners seem to be getting. The roof added another $15.7 million to the price tag, which had already grown from $500 million when initially sold to the public to more than $720 million by the time the building was completed.

The city hadn't even finished paying for the Colts' prior home, the tax-funded RCA Dome, before talk about a new stadium began several years ago. Not wanting to let a pro franchise skip town under his watch, Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson cobbled together a deal under which the city would impose a new tax to pay the vast majority of the project's cost, provided the Colts put up a small stake to show the city their loyalty.

To build the new stadium however, the city had to break its lease with the Colts to tear down the old one. Incredibly, the Colts then exercised a clause in the lease penalizing the city $48 million for breaking the earlier contract, even though the entire point of breaking the contract was to build the team another, more expensive stadium. The Colts naturally applied the lease termination penalty as part of their "contribution" to the new stadium. In the end, central Indiana taxpayers footed about 90 percent of the bill.

Back to that roof. It would have cost either Irsay or the city another $500,000 to add a drainage system to the field and several million dollars more to waterproof the scoreboard, the high-definition big screen, and other electronic gizmos. Neither wanted to pick up the tab. Which means that as of 90 minutes before game time, the chance of precipitation will need to be at or near zero—during football season—for Colts fans to enjoy the outdoor football they were promised.