Baltimore Colts timeline: anatomy of a move

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March 30, 1976: Four years after he bought the team, Robert Irsay acknowledged he had received "an attractive offer" to move the club to Phoenix.

Jan. 9, 1977: During Super Bowl XI, Irsay said he'd been approached by Indianapolis about plans to move the team and build a rent-free stadium. "I can get the votes. We can move if we want to," he said.

Jan. 27, 1979: Tired of delays for the Owings Mills complex, Irsay met with the Los Angeles Coliseum Commission. Kenneth Hahn, president of the commission, referred to the team as the L.A. Colts in a news conference immediately afterward. Irsay called off the second meeting a day later.

March 29, 1979: Ground-breaking ceremonies held at Owings Mills.

June 11, 1979: Irsay threatened to move to L.A. because Gov. Harry Hughes and Mayor William Donald Schaefer wouldn't talk about improvements for Memorial Stadium. L.A. officials denied having any contact with Irsay for five months.

Aug. 8, 1979: Irsay said he had offers from Jacksonville, Fla., Indianapolis and Phoenix to move.

Aug. 15, 1979: Jacksonville staged a "Love In" at the Gator Bowl for Irsay with fireworks, sky divers, cheerleaders and 50,000 fans.

Sept. 26, 1979: Irsay said Jacksonville promised $60 million in revenues over 10 years and improvements to the Gator Bowl. He also said he had offers from Memphis, Tenn., and L.A. "It's not a matter of if I'm leaving [Baltimore], but where I'm going," Irsay reportedly said three times in meetings with Jacksonville officials.

Oct. 9, 1979: Irsay said he was misquoted about leaving Baltimore and intended to keep the team here if the proposed stadium renovations provided good enough seats.

Oct. 31, 1979: Prompted by Hughes' plans to spend $22 million on the stadium, Irsay withdrew his proposal to move the team from the league agenda.

June 10, 1981: The Colts signed two-year stadium lease -- their last.

Jan. 5, 1984: Irsay opened negotiations with Arizona real-estate developer Anthony Nicoli about moving or selling the club.

Jan. 20, 1984: Amid reports he was negotiating with Phoenix, Irsay told reporters at a BWI news conference, "I haven't any intention of moving the team." He then broke off talks with Nicoli.

Feb. 3, 1984: Irsay reportedly held negotiations with New York City to play in Shea Stadium.

Feb. 27, 1984: Indianapolis officials reportedly offered a lucrative deal to Irsay, which included use of the city's new, $80 million domed stadium and a new practice facility.

March 1, 1984: Indianapolis secured a $15 million loan at 8 percent interest for Irsay.

March 2, 1984: At the NFL owners meeting in Chicago, commissioner Pete Rozelle said the league would not stand in the way of an Irsay move because of legal ramifications over Al Davis' case.

March 6, 1984: Coach Frank Kush, Jimmy Irsay and lawyer Michael Chernoff flew to Indianapolis under assumed names to inspect the dome. Maryland's secretary of economic development, Frank De Francis, met with a group of the state's top corporate executives to discuss an offer to Irsay.

March 8, 1984: Maryland's offer included a $15 million, 8 percent loan, and an arrangement to relieve Irsay's $2.2 million debt on the Owings Mills complex.

March 11, 1984: Hughes, Schaefer and Baltimore County Executive Donald Hutchinson led a Maryland delegation to Chicago to meet Irsay. As part of the deal offered, the city, the state or Baltimore County would buy the complex and lease it back to Irsay.

March 15, 1984: Irsay met Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbitt and four others (Harry Cavanagh, Keith Turley, Eddie Lynch and Jim Simmons) in Bakersfield, Calif. Phoenix was willing to match the $15 million loan at 8 percent, the $5 million practice facility and added a promise to build a downtown domed stadium.

March 19, 1984: Irsay skipped the NFL owners meetings in Honolulu, Phoenix sweetened its offer with a guarantee on ticket sales of 34,000 a year for the next 12 years.

March 25, 1984: Irsay flew to National Airport to meet Schaefer and De Francis. They offered an expanded package they believed met Irsay's demands.

March 26, 1984: The state Senate studied two bills related to the Colts. One called for the state to purchase the team outright for $40 million and sell it back to local investors. The other called for the state to condemn the Colts and begin eminent domain proceedings to take over the team as a public interest. Said Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell (D-Baltimore County), who sponsored eminent domain, "We are sitting on the bills. We don't want to tip the scales. It is a very sensitive position we are in. The way Mr. Irsay is, I don't want to be the guy who makes him jump off the deep end."

March 27, 1984: Irsay presented a new list of demands by phone to De Francis, including a $15 million loan at 8 percent interest; a guaranteed average home attendance of 43,000; and an offer of $6.6 million, up from $4.4 million, to purchase the training complex. Meanwhile, the State Senate approved by a vote of 38-4 the eminent domain legislation that would give Baltimore power to seize ownership of the Colts. It had not yet gone to the House of Delegates.

March 28, 1984: De Francis and Schaefer each tried twice to reach Irsay by phone to tell him the city would accept a new list of demands. Irsay did not take the calls. Shortly before 10 p.m., the moving vans arrived in Owings Mills.

March 28-29, 1984: Colts moved to Indianapolis.

March 29, 1984: Hughes signed the eminent domain bill shortly before noon. The city wired a $40 million offer to Irsay, an offer that is normally a prelude to an eminent domain action.

March 30, 1984: Baltimore filed an eminent domain suit.

Dec. 10, 1985: Federal court rejected the city's condemnation suit against the Colts. U.S. District Court Judge Walter E. Black Jr. in Baltimore, ruled the team had moved beyond Baltimore's legal reach when the city acted. According to Schaefer, city had spent more than $500,000 in legal fees on various Colts cases.

Source: Baltimore Sun archives