I’m not going to predict either a Colts OR a Ravens victory Saturday night. But I am going to guarantee that we will all be watching Indianapolis in Super Bowl XLVI (that’s 46) in January 2012. That’s not to say the Colts will be playing in it (though they certainly could with Peyton Manning) but the city of Indianapolis will actually HOST that game.
In just 24 months, the Super Bowl will be played in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana. How did that happen? How did the city that welcomed our beloved Colts end up hosting the Super Bowl? Two words – retractable roof.
As much as Baltimore hit a home run with Oriole Park, it fumbled the construction of M&T Bank Stadium. I did some poking around and found the cost for what was originally known as Ravens Stadium in 1996 was $220 million. Reliant Stadium, a retractable roof stadium built in Houston for the Texans in 2000, cost $330 million to build. Factoring in four years of 3% inflation, it would have likely cost Baltimore $310 million at the time to add a retractable roof to the football stadium.
Ninety million dollars could have led to all kinds of opportunity for Baltimore. Ninety million for a possible Super Bowl, an NCAA Final Four, winter concerts, or a bowl game – the McCormick Old Bay Bowl anyone? It might have even pushed us into that higher league of cities that might have attracted the NBA or NHL (shoot, even the AHL).
Now I’m a purist. I love football outdoors. And an open air, natural grass stadium is the best football environment there is: compare a game in Green Bay, Cleveland or San Diego to games in Atlanta, St. Louis or Detroit. Outdoors on grass wins every time.
But once the Ravens put in the artificial surface, the stadium lost half of its identity. No more grass stains. No more muddy games. No clumps of turf coming up in November to be re-sodded in December. Just shards of tire finding its way into your shoes.
We should have forked over that 90 million for the retractable roof. And as a football purist, i would have been in favor of a stipulation that the roof be opened, come hell or high water, for all Ravens home games. Mid-August 88 degrees with 83% humidity? Open. Late October, remnants of a hurricane battering Baltimore with 25mph winds and heavy rain? Open. Day after a Christmas Week Blizzard? Open. (and maybe i wouldn’t have sat in the upper deck with 8″ of snow at my feet if the roof was closed the day before).
But Super Bowl. Closed! Final Four? Closed. Bowl Game? Closed. Imagine the economic impact downtown. We could have had it all for $90 million.
Party on! Excellent!