It’s been six years since the Indianapolis Colts moved out of the RCA (Hoosier) Dome and into Lucas Oil Stadium with its one-of-a-kind end window overlooking the Indianapolis skyline and retractable roof. According to Mike Wells, a writer for ESPN, in those six years, fans have enjoyed football with the roof open 15 times. Fans, and probably Colts officials, are frustrated that they hardly ever get to use their new toy (even if they are pretty thrilled they never have to sit out in the snow, like their neighbors in Chicago and Cincinnati).
The current roof opening rules, according to the NFL Competition Committee, are completely dependent on weather (not crowd noise, as some might believe). If it’s raining, the roof is closed; Lucas Oil Stadium has artificial turf and no field drainage system. If it’s under 50 degrees or above 80 degrees, the roof is closed. Or, if there is even a local threat of rain, lightning, hail, tornado, or anything else adverse, the roof is automatically closed. The decision is made 90 minutes before kickoff, and it cannot be changed, even though, according to the Colts’ official website, the roof only takes about nine minutes to open and close.
Anyone who has spent a weekend anywhere in the Midwest knows that you can easily experience all four seasons in less than 36 hours. Looking at those weather requirements and the forecasting accuracy needed to know when it’s without a doubt “okay” to have the roof open, it’s impossible. No wonder they err on the side of caution and keep it closed most of the time even when they probably don’t have to. They did take great pleasure in opening the stadium up wide to welcome Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos last fall, so any concerns fans might have about the open roof diminishing crowd noise, well, there’s your answer.
Now the Colts are proposing a league-wide change to the rules that will allow them to open or close the roof at halftime, giving them much more flexibility over how they use their facility and how fans experience the game. This rule will only affect the four teams in the league with retractable roofs (the Colts, Houston Texans, Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals). Interesting to note that of the four teams impacted by this rule, two are in the same division.
This measure shouldn’t give any unwarranted advantage to any home team, unless there are a lot of fans like me who would just be fired up any time the roof opened. Imagine a scenario in which the game has been flat, the crowd’s half-dead and the whole atmosphere just lacks any energy. Then, as halftime begins, the roof unexpectedly parts, the sun beams in and a chorus of angels heralds the arrival of a momentum shift. Would the novelty of that experience ever wear off? I hope not.
I hope the rule change passes; I think most fans would be in favor of it. After the way this winter has gone, Indianapolis needs to soak up all the sunshine it can get.