For the first time since 2003, the Indianapolis Colts haven’t sold enough season tickets to avoid a blackout, so the team will begin selling single game tickets to make up the difference.
According to the Indianapolis Business Journal, the Colts still have 1,600 unsold seats. The IBJ reports that the team will announce the plans for single game ticket sales on Thursday.
The Colts put together an astounding run of success under quarterback Peyton Manning, but his departure and a lackluster 2-14 season have appeared to sour fans on the team. In May, the Colts announced that 3,000 season tickets remained. According to the IBJ, they hired an outside ticket sales firm to boost sales.
It didn’t work, and now that the team is making single game tickets available, sports marketer David Morton with Sunrise Sports Group said he believes fans have something to prove.
"Colts fans are spoiled," Morton said. "What you have a test of here is, 'How true blue are the Colts fans' If it's not sold out because of Colts fans then it's going to be the opposition fans making noise."
Just five years ago, the Colts had 30,000 people on the waiting list for season tickets. The move to Lucas Oil Stadium pared down the list, but 16,000 people remained as of 2010. Only 87 percent of season ticket holders renewed for this season, further shrinking the waiting list.
Colts officials said the team had been so spectacularly successful and popular that they’d effectively dismantled their sales department, the IBJ reported. The team remained optimistic that season tickets would sell out.
The departure of a star quarterback, the firing of both the general manager and head coach, and the arrival of a new staff and heir apparent quarterback Andrew Luck created uncertainty. Fans with the opportunity to buy season tickets decided to pass, some for economic reasons and others to wait it out for better seats, the IBJ reported.
"A lot of us can't afford season tickets. I can't," said longtime fan Lori Compton.
Now, Compton knows she has a new option to buy a couple single game seats.
"I would do that,” she said. “At least I'd get a chance to go on occasion anyway."
It’s uncertain whether enough fans will do the same, but the Colts representatives said there are reasons for optimism. Training camp opened in Anderson in front of a crowd of 5,000 fans. Nearly as many showed up the next day, and the team hopes fans will see the new-look Colts and show their support.
David Morton said he doesn't believe the question now is about blackouts. The team has said that games that do not sell out will be subject to local blackouts, but Morton doesn’t think that will be an issue.
"Someone is going to buy all the tickets, whether it's a TV network or a sponsor or the Colts themselves, it's going to be on television," Morton said. "It's the NFL. It's the greatest marketing machine in sports."
The team opens the preseason on Aug. 12 at home against the St. Louis Rams. Their regular season home opener is Sept. 16 against the Minnesota Vikings.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun