Indianapolis Sports Culture Test:
Question #1: The Indianpolis Colts recently announced that the renewal of their season ticket holders was 87% this year, the lowest that it's been in the last decade. What is the most likely primary reason for this?
a. The 2-14 season in 2011, the worst season since 1991
b. The loss of team icon Peyton Manning via free agency, along with several other key icons of the Manning era
c. Economical effects on season ticket holders
d. All of the above
e. Indiana sports fans just suck
With the recent announcement of season ticket renewal rates, the drop to 87% has caused some to question the loyalty of Indiana fans, saying that one bad season shouldn't account for such a drastic drop in ticket sales. The recent chaos that has gone on in the Colts' facility should not have led to these drops, at least in these media members' opinions.
Now, I'm not from Indiana, and I have very little family from the state, but this seems to be an illogical premise to come to when you consider the facts. Why did the Colts season ticket renewal drop? A number of reasons, and none as ridiculous as some would have you believe. In fact, considering the circumstances, I'm surprised that the renewal rate only dropped by 6% this offseason.
1. The Colts just had a historically awful year in 2011.
The Colts were terrible in 2011. Led by an absence of Peyton Manning at quarterback, the team won just two games all season, the lowest total since 1991. This kind of incompetency isn't something that has no repercussions. Fans don't want to spend money to see teams performing at that kind of level. It will always lead to some kind of fallback.
"But wait!" the skeptics say, "The fans of Green Bay, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, etc. don't have this problem, they have fans through ups and downs!"
True. Those fan bases generally are known as some of the best in the league. They also have a history that far outweighs that of the Indianapolis Colts. The Packers have been in Green Bay since 1919. Their last season where they won three or less games? 1958. There also isn't a whole lot more in Green Bay to root for. Green Bay IS the Packers, and vice versa.
Pittsburgh isn't much different. They've been around since 1933, and haven't had a season with three or less wins since 1969. The Steelers, like the Packers, are also among the most successful franchises in the league, adding to their draw.
The Chiefs are the closes to the Colts in terms of parallels, and they have stark differences as well. They've been in Kansas City since before the NFL-AFL merger, starting in 1963 (Colts came to Indianapolis in 1984). But, unlike the Colts, they had success early, winning a Super Bowl and getting to another in their first seven seasons in Kansas City. There also isn't much else in Kansas City, with the Royals (MLB) being the only other major pro team. The Chiefs were in Kansas City four years earlier than the Royals, and while the Royals had a good run in the early 80s, they've been abysmal ever since. (Also, to my knowledge, the Chiefs do not have a waiting list for season tickets, as the Colts have had to have over the last few years)
The Colts came to Indianapolis just 28 years ago, and didn't win 10 games until 1999. Coincidentally, the Colts have been incredibly successful in terms of ticket sales since then, selling out 113 of 114 games. They came to a state that was known for it's love of basketball, not football. It had to compete with markets in Chicago, Cincinatti, Cleveland, etc. They have very little history in Indy, especially positive history, when compared to such historical teams like the Packers, Steelers, or Chiefs. It's simply a terrible connection to make.
2. The Colts just lost several iconic players, most notably Peyton Manning.
Peyton Manning is easily the most iconic player the Colts have ever had. Losing him was a huge blow to the franchise, and the fact that the details behind the divorce have been dramatized haven't helped the transition. Losing the player who has had a huge amount of impact on the franchise (just look at the success in the last 12 years) will cause a drop of tickets. Personally, I think that probably more than 6% of Colts fans were simply fans because of Manning. Only losing 6% more than usual after losing him is pretty incredible.
Beyond Manning, the Colts also cut players like Joseph Addai, Dallas Clark, and Jeff Saturday. These players were all part of a golden era that not only was incredibly successful, but that identified with the fans on a personal level as well. When a team goes through a mass exodus of past faces like they did, it's hard for fans who have become attached.
3. The economy.
People are STILL struggling to make ends meet. I know it's true in Michigan, where I live, and from talking to Hoosiers it's a struggle in Indiana as well. Combining a struggling economy with a team that was bad last year, lost a lot of big-name faces, and is a complete question mark for 2012 with a poor economy means lower sales. Fans don't want to shell out their money to see a team play that isn't winning games. Especially with football TV coverage getting easier and easier to watch at home, with our big screens, theatre chairs, etc.
Look, I'm not saying that there aren't fairweather fans in the Colts' fanbase. There is in every fanbase! I have yet to see any reason why it should be any different for a team that has little positive history in Indianapolis. It has begun to grow that history and connection with the city over the last ten years, but should we really expect for Indianapolis to become Green Bay or Pittsburgh overnight? I mean, we honestly don't even know where that 87% renewal rate stands compared to the other 32 teams in the league!
The truth is, every one of these factors is a major contributor to fans mindsets, and it should be. Hoosiers shouldn't be expected to be the kinds of fans that Green Bay or Pittsburgh has. It's simply not a fair comparison to make.
My best guess would be "d". But I'd change "e" -- those Hoosier fans are not bad fans, they're just sick and tired of an owner who spends more time tweeting innuendos and outright lies than he does managing the team! Go ahead, name just one other buffoon of an owner doing such a stupid, lame thing!!!! NO WAY!
I'm going with "Indiana sports fans just suck." You guys suck so much we built a website just for you. You suck so much that there's this book being sold on the left hand side of this website all about you and your team.
Seriously, I think most people are like @NateDunlevy or Josh Brandenburg and consider this a buyer's market. Take this chance to see a game, buy season tickets or upgrade your existing season tickets. It's a blip on the radar but take advantage of it while you can.
Colts football is here to stay.
I'm a huge Colts fan from Dayton, OH that just bought season tickets for the first time, literally a couple of hours ago. I was a bit of a contrarian as a kid, so I rebelled against the Bengals, and really wasn't that in to football anyway. It was actually the Jim Harbaurgh hail mary game in '96 that got me watching the Colts. Then, of course, Manning came along and I was hooked permanently. Like all of us, I'm beyond bummed that he is gone. But, I'm excited about Luck and generally optimistic about the future. So, for me, the prospect of season tickets actually being available for the first time in nearly a decade actually excited me! I'm happy to support the new regime, the new QB and the new era of Colts football. ...Not sure what the point of any of this is, except that I just bought them and am excited, so I thought I'd share. Go Colts!
One point being missed is that a large percentage of season ticket holders in Indy were scalpers and brokers. The financials of that market just fell apart for brokers so why buy all the inventory they were before. I'd be willing to bet that 60-70% of the non-renewals weren't fans but were brokers.
I am a former season ticket holder. I had tickets for the year Lucas opened, and then did not renew them. So, I am not a member of this group that didn't renew because of last year. Here is my logic as to why I didn't renew in case anyone wants a first hand account. 1. Opportunity cost: I am INCREDIBLY blessed that I do have the financial means to purchase Colts season tickets. However, this is not without some decision as to what I can't do. For example, by not renewing our season tickets, were were able to more easily afford a family vacation to someplace special. (The first year it was Disney.) To me, that is worth more than tickets. This doesn't even consider the money spent on 8 tailgates and food at the stadium for 8 games 2. Time: I love football. My entire family (including kids) sits down and watches games together. However, it didn't work for our lifestyle to mark out 8 hours per home game to spend tailgating, going to the game, and getting home. (I live about 45 min away from the stadium) I'd rather be able to sit on my couch for 6 of those games, and buy tickets to two. This leads to... 3. Secondary Market: It is becoming easier and easier to buy tickets to any game. From Stubhub, to Ebay, scalpers etc it is pretty easy to get a ticket. It is WAY cheaper for me to find a game I want to go to with my familiy, friends and overpay 120% for the tickets from a scalper or stub hub than it is to buy the season. 4. Ticket access: I am fortunate that I have developed a place where I can get access to 1 game per year. Unfortunatelly, I don't get to choose what game. That is a bit frustrating. However, if I buy that game, I can always get playoff tickets. I've been to every home playoff game but the Pit game since 2000. Just my story. If deciding that season tickets are not the right decision for my family makes me not a "true" fan than so be it. I personally don't see it that way.
A drop in season ticket sales was to be expected. The Colts have doused the bridges to the Manning Era with gasoline and thrown lit zippos at them as they crossed over to the golden fields of the Luck Era. Inevitably, some fans were going to be left behind. As for the rest of us, I think we just want to see one season where Andrew Luck has "it". He does't have to be Peyton Manning, at least not yet. But he has to show us "it" so we know it's safe to jump back on the bandwagon.
Your argument about Kansas City is contentious and seems weak...what do you mean by much else? How many cities can boast of more than 1 pro team?
"There also isn't much else in Kansas City, with the Royals (MLB) being the only other major pro team. The Chiefs were in Kansas City four years earlier than the Royals, and while the Royals had a good run in the early 80s, they've been abysmal ever since."
Don't forget you can now sell the rights to your season tickets with the Colts' blessing. Considering nobody is asking less than $500/seat for rights to nosebleed seats, I would guess the incentive of free money adds to the turnover.
I hate this idea that any fans who aren't rabidly, fanatically, unquestioningly loyal are therefore "fair weather" fans. It's a typically lazy narrative from hack writers (not anyone at CA, I should add) pandering to the worst emotions of frustrated readers. People who spend so much effort spewing bile at the Colts organization don't get to tell me what real fandom is.
I am a season ticket holder who renewed, but had to think very long and hard about it. The reason I almost didn't renew is that I am actually being penalized as a season ticket holder in a couple of ways:
1. I have to pay 125% of face value (face + amortized cost of the preseason tickets).
2. I have to give the Colts a free loan (I paid for my tickets for next year in March).
Traditionally, I did this because my particular tickets were hard to come by for less than 120% of face on game day. Last year starting with the first game, ticket prices went steadily down and were always available on game day for less than face. Several games tickets in my section were available on game day for less than 50% of face value. As a season ticket holder I was being penalized 75% of the price of that ticket (x2 as i have 2 tickets).
I did renew because I am hopeful for the Colts future and didn't want to lose my seats, but had I known that they were going to go through the waiting list and then some, that would have been even more reason not to renew. Trust me when I say I can't afford 2 more years of this. If Jim Irsay thinks he has 4 years to rebuild he is crazy. If I don't see major upward swings next year I'm probably not going to be able to renew.
If the Colts were really worried about season ticket up take they would provide something of value to season ticket holders. The single best thing they could do is offer to "buy" the preseason tickets from season ticket holders and then resale them super cheap. This would eliminate the biggest penalty to season ticket holders and allow people who normally can't afford to go to a game (or who can't justify taking little kids to real games) a chance to go and experience a game.
The reason places like Pittsburgh, Green Bay, and Kansas City don't have this problem is that they have season ticket holder wait lists that are huge. If you give up a Green Bay seat, you will never get it back. Conversely, I could have conceivably given up my seats this year, and bought similar seats at the end of this year.
The Pacers have the 3 seed in East by the throat and fans still won't fill the Fieldhouse. The Brawl happened and then there were (what seemed like) several shooting/ fighting incidents involving members of the team taking place at local strip clubs and downtown hotels. The team got blown up and apathy ensued. The situation is not really analogous with the Colts at all, except to illustrate how fragile that culture of high character and winning can be.
One of the best things that Jim Irsay was bringing in Dungy, a soft spoken headcoach whose character turned out to be so much bigger and more important to the city than that of a mere football coach. I'm not a religious person, and some of the political/ social issues that Dungy spoke out on REALLY rubbed me the wrong way, but I cannot deny that rooting for Dungy and the kinds of guys he picked to play for him felt really good.
We'll see what kind of guys Grigson/ Pagano go after and how those guys ingratiate themselves to the community. Different isn't necessarily bad, and I like Pagano's talk of personal accountability among his players. It's an important value that should resonate with fans.
These discussions omit one important consideration: that ticket sale decline, in part, reflects the reaction of the fan base to the <em>handling</em> of the release of Peyton Manning (primarily) and the other iconic players (to a lesser degree).
Fans <em>remember</em> that in December 2011, Irsay <strong>promised</strong> us that the team would never cut a healthy Manning - and then watched three months later, when he broke that promise, by doing precisely that: cutting a healthy Manning. I believe that the season-ticket decline is but one means of expressing displeasure toward this broken promise.
Fans will endure losing seasons and the departure of iconic players; but they will be far less likely to endure broken promises from the team owner - <em>especially</em> given the cost of season tickets and the current state of the economy (despite Brad Wells' specious insistence that the economy is improving, and therefore cannot be a realistic contributor to the season-ticket sales decline).
The scary thing is that the Colts probably won't win a whole lot of games in 2012.
The key is going to be if the fans can connect with Luck and want to watch him develop. I can still remember watching ever play of Manning's rookie year, and even though it was a season of few wins and many ups and downs, #18 even then was must watch TV for me.
I'm praying for the same thing with Luck.
@Platinum The other thing Kansas City has as an advantage over Indianapolis is that it is the *only* NFL market in a *huge* radius of the country. Kansas City pulls in fans from Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, etc. Its nearest fanbase competitors are St. Louis (a considerably newer franchise to the region), Denver, Green Bay, Minnesota, Dallas, and Oakland/San Francisco.
By contrast, Indianapolis has several markets within a 300-or-so mile radius, and must compete with the Bears, Lions, Bengals, Rams, and (now) Titans for their fanbase. The Colts are in a pretty crappy location for fanbase competition.
Another point: Most "diehard" Colts fans are in their mid-thirties and younger - which means that they are not financially well-enough established, generally speaking, to afford season tickets (I know that I'm not; in a mid-thirties, single-income-dual-kids situation). The Colts do not have a lock on the demographic of the fanbase - i.e. those in their 40s and older - who are generally better financially able to purchase season tickets. A non-trivial segment of that demographic maintains loyalty to the Bears (primarily) and other nearby teams.
@Platinum There's nothing else in Kansas City. It's just a fact. It's not just the fact that they only also have the Royals, but it's the fact that the Royals have been terrible for the vast majority of their history. The fans have latched on to the Chiefs as a result, similar to Green Bay. It's not a bad thing, it's just the way it is.
Oh, and almost every NFL cities have another pro team. Jacksonville is the only one that doesn't have at LEAST two.
@Platinum It was a response to Brad Wells citing Chiefs fans as an example of what Colts fans should be.
Both the comparison and the attempted refutation are weak. The Chiefs have been a fixture in KC since 1963; the Colts have only been in Indy since 1984 and have only been relevant since the mid-90s. And the Chiefs aren't exactly immune to fan displeasure, they had their epic sellout streak snapped in 2009.
But Kansas City is roughly the same size as Indy, actually a little smaller and more sparsely populated if anything, and they've managed to keep both a football team and baseball team going strong since back when Indy only had the Pacers. So yeah, it is possible for lightning to strike in a smaller market and zap everyone into maniacal fandom but that doesn't mean it's reasonable to expect that result in any given smaller market.
@naptown_ninja Definitely agree that the bringing in of Dungy was a huge factor. Good point.
@chip_bennett Season ticket holder had to renew before this happened.
@Kyle Rodriguez I lived in KC for years. The Royals still have a lot of loyal fans surprisingly and after they redid Kaufman stadium, they've started drawing more folks to the stadium, certainly has nothing to do with the quality of ball on display though. The city is pulling for an NBA team and has an MLS team with a new stadium that sells out regularly. As far as NFL goes, the Chiefs couldnt give away tix for free until recently, the 'loyal' fans stayed away during the putrid times. Arrowhead is a big stadium so relative to other teams, maybe the final numbers look good but when you look at the stadium size, it was empty for a minute. Chiefs fans are more rabid than Rams fans but I wouldnt say they're anything near the Packers fans...the city doesnt revolve around the Chiefs in the same way Green Bay does around the Pack...it's not even close to that...In fact, its more like Indy than Green Bay.
Just some on-the-ground facts from my side, dunno/care bout the argument either way lol...it's foolish and you shouldn't have responded to him though I get why you did.
@squirrel Oh...you guys bother responding to that stuff? I guess someone has to try to balance things out.
@Kyle Rodriguez Yeah I was. Gotcha now.
@Platinum I think you're misreading my posts. I'm not saying Chiefs fans are like Packers fans. If you read the article, I said they are the closest to Indy, yet still have major differences. The Royals are consistently in the bottom of the MLB in attendance, while the Chiefs are consistently in the top 10 (although 2009-2010 were 17th and 20th). Also, the soccer and baseball seasons generally don't overlap much with the NFL, as NBA or even NHL do. They're not drawing people away. The size of the stadium is largely irrelevant. It doesn't matter how big it is if you can't fill it.
Anyway, the point is that KC has an advantage to Indianapolis in terms of fan turnout. Those include location (as Chip points out below), history, and competing professional sports.
@Platinum @squirrel I'll make passing mention of his melodramatic drivel here, but I won't give pageviews to StampedeBlue - especially with the draconian comment moderation measures they have in place there. Anyone who fails to genuflect before the greatness of BBS, much less make a negative or contradictory comment, runs the risk of having their comment moderated.
But some things do warrant refutation, including his nonsense attack of Colts fans over the decline in season-ticket sales.
@Platinum He represents himself as an Indy fan and he's been gifted one of the bigger megaphones in Colts blogdom so unfortunately he can't always be ignored.
Which is another reason Irsay should be worried. If I'm not getting value from my tickets after next year, I will be out, and I won't feel at all like less of a fan.
@kasey_junk @chip_bennett The economics probably are the biggest factor. I have to say, though, I'm a junky about Colts' football. I read everything I can get my hands on. My wife, is a huge fan too, not to the same extent. She is *furious* with Irsay over letting Manning go. I don't know if it speaks to alot of other fans, but I don't think she's going to be changing her tune for the next three years. Even if the Colts are winning a Superbowl four years from now, her response will most likely be, "yeah but... it could've been Peyton" I'm not sure it doesn't have a bigger effect on more casual fans... who know.
@Sinn0331 @chip_bennett I thought it was likely. I didn't "know" it would happen. I can't speak for everyone, but while I don't like the way Irsay handled this off season, but it had a lot less to do with my decision about renewing my season tickets than the economic realities of season tickets not being a good deal.