To open or not to open Lucas Oil Stadium's roof


Mary Milz/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - To open or close - that's the big question before every Colts home game and one that generates a lot of talk after games.

Take Monday night when the Colts hosted Houston at Lucas Oil Stadium. The the retractable roof received a lot of pre-game play. The temperature was near 50 degrees at kick-off. The Colts opted to keep the roof closed.

"It's not an exact science," said Colts senior executive vice president Pete Ward. Looking at the forecast, they thought "a majority of fans would want the roof closed."

The decision generated a lot of discussion on the WTHR Facebook page, with some applauding the decision and others criticizing it, saying, "What's the use of having it if you never use it?"

According to the Stadium Authority, the retractable roof cost between $20-$25 million. The Colts have final say on when it's open and must decide at least 90 minutes before game time. Once that decision's made, it can't be changed.

Ward says it's all based on weather. There can't be lightning, strong winds or rain (There's no drainage system.) As for the temperature, Ward says contrary to popular thought, there's no 40-degree rule.

He said the Colts tend to follow 50-80-degree rule used at Houston's Reliant Stadium.

"We look at them as the voice of experience but reserve the right to do what's best for our fans," said Ward.

He said Peyton Manning doesn't call the shots on opening the roof and no, they don't keep it closed to keep it loud.

"There are a lot of stadiums that are loud that don't have roofs - Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, so it's not necessarily true. I really think it's more dependent on the crowd than the roof."

The roof has yet to open for the Circle City Classic held each fall or any of the major music competitions, but it did open for Kenny Chesney and a couple of high school football games.

Since Lucas Oil Stadium opened in 2008 the Colts have played 13 of 27 home games open air. If you do that math, that's so far, roughly $1.7 million each time the roof is open for the Colts, and that doesn't include $56,000 a year the Capital Improvement Board pays to maintain it.

Still, Ward says the roof makes Lucas Oil a top stadium in the NFL and one the Colts expect to call home for many years to come.

"We're going to have some years with bad weather and some years with great weather. I think over time the roof will be open for about half the games," he said, adding you can't please everyone.

Ward said even the players differ on their preferences, but so far, when it comes to season games, the Colts are 7-1 with the roof open.

CIB Executive Director Barney Levengood said the roof has been opened 30 times since the stadium was completed in 2008. That includes Colts games and a variety of special events.