In daily travels around our capital city, thousands of Hoosiers drive by "The House That Peyton Built," a playful moniker that pays deference to former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and his lingering impact. There is little doubt that, without Manning and his legendary performances over the last decade, there would be no Lucas Oil Stadium, and the Colts might not even still be in Indy. It seems that Manning's new team, the Denver Broncos, have taken note of the quarterback's ability to drive architectural plans and are making plans for some construction of their own. As Dan Hanzus of NFL.com reported on June 27, Denver is planning to create more luxury suites at Sports Authority Field to accommodate the high-end fans drawn in by the Manning signing. This move is not completely surprising, but it's still quite a tribute to the star power of a 36-year-old who has been out of action for more than a year.
After all, it's not as if this is an old stadium that lacked for luxury suites in 2011 and before. Sports Authority opened in 2001 and was built in the afterglow of the Broncos' two consecutive Super Bowl championships at the end of quarterback John Elway's career. Even after their own legend retired, Broncos fans continued to pour into their new stadium, and the team has sold out every game in the field's history, at least from the standpoint of general admission. The premium seats have been a hard sell, and the team has struggled to find takers for its 130 suites. In 2011, the last Denver go-round for the popular but polarizing Tim Tebow, the Broncos were left holding the bag for five unsold suites. All of which makes their current plans look incredibly flattering to Manning and the interest he has already drummed up. According to Hanzus, the team plans to convert 64 lower-priced seats into eight miniature suites, each of which will sell, hopefully, for $60,000 per season.
This is probably a decent bet for the Broncos to make, at least in the short term. According to Denver's senior director of premium seating, Ryan Barefoot, the Broncs are selling suites at a record pace this off-season. Everyone wants to be a part of the Peyton Manning ride, and I can't blame them, because there will be partying in Denver if Manning is anywhere near what he was for the Colts from 1998-2010. The danger, of course, is that he may never be the same, and he probably has only a handful of seasons left under the best of circumstances. Even so, I suspect it would take a long stretch of disastrous performances or missed games due to injury before fans would give up on the Manning dream. I know from first-hand experience just how enticing the thought of having Number 18 to guide your team's offense can be, regardless of the evidence in front of you. Colts fans spent the better part of a year scheming our team's return to prominence once Manning returned to the fold.
I guess that's the kind of weight carried by a guy who builds a stadium for you. Or, as Denver may find out, renovates one.
Adam Hughes was raised, and still lives, in rural Indiana. He has been a Colts fans since the team arrived in Indianapolis on a snowy morning in 1984. The Blue and White eventually replaced the Chicago Bears as his #1 team, and Super Bowl XLI was a dream come true.