When the Indianapolis Colts drafted Peyton Manning in 1998, the organization was considered the National Football League’s least-valuable franchise. Fast-forward to Forbes’ 2011 NFL valuations, in which the Colts ranked 11th, at $1.1 billion, a 474 percent increase. The average NFL franchise saw growth of 291 percent.
Manning drove the valuation increase but not solely by what we’ve all seen from his highlights and in the team’s won-loss record. Perhaps his greatest value to the team came in the form of Lucas Oil Stadium.
“Indianapolis said, ‘If you don’t want to risk Peyton Manning not being around anymore, build us a new stadium,’ ” said Neil deMause, one of the authors of “Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money into Private Profit.” “[Lucas Oil Stadium] was one of the most lucrative deals in the NFL, if not all of sports.”
Public financing accounted for about 86 percent of the stadium’s $720 million cost when it opened in 2008. And Lucas Oil is paying $122 million over 20 years for naming rights to the stadium.
“Peyton Manning built good will, thus the Indianapolis leaders were afraid they’d lose their team if they didn’t build the stadium,” said Marc Edelman, a sports law professor at Barry University who has studied stadium financing.
“The Colts would have been a high-risk team to move,” Edelman said. “Teams that have moved once are more likely to lose twice in a short period of time. Look at the [Oakland] A’s and the [Atlanta] Braves.”
Before drafting Manning, the Colts played in just five playoff games in 14 seasons, with 9-7 as the team’s best record. The Colts moved from Baltimore in 1984.
“[F]ans that have only had a team for a short period of time have less of an emotional attachment, thus the community is less willing to build a new stadium,” Edelman said. “The Colts came from Baltimore to Indianapolis, and before Peyton they had a losing record. They were a high-risk team to be denied funding and move again, but Peyton was able to build goodwill.”
Can Peyton bring that same goodwill to a new city?
“Hard to quantify but yes, there will be impacts,” said Andrew Brandt, an ESPN.com contributor and a former Green Bay Packers vice president.
He said the team that signs Manning will surely base a marketing campaign around him.
“[There] will be increased buzz about the team and, assuming he signs before schedule release in April, increased national television presence, bringing value to the team,” Brandt said. “It could also energize sales of club seats and boxes that are up for renewal.”