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Mayoral archive traces Colts' path to Indy




"Mayor Hudnut, Please change the street name next to your stadium (Dome) from Maryland to Irsay. We in the great state of Md., do not want your city to have our state's name on your streets. Now, Come on Bill, let's do away with this. You owe us one." (anonymous note to Mayor Hudnut, 1984, PDF)

You're not going to find any smoking guns in The Institute for Civic Leadership and Digital Mayoral Archives's online feature Bringing the Colts to Indianapolis.

But the institute's hand-picked slideshow of documents and photos about Indy's bid to secure professional sports franchises does afford beyond-the-headlines insights, starting from a 1971 speech by Richard Lugar that stints not on hyperbole: "At a time when faith falters in government, business, aesthetic beauty, and vital institutions that serve and inspire people in the heart of great American cities, Indianapolis reaffirms its faith in the future with bold new plans to insure that future for decades to come." (PDF)

At that time, those bold plans were focused on Market Square Arena: "This magnificent arena towering some eighteen stories above ground level will be constructed atop double pedestal garages accommodating 650 automobiles each."

A 1981 press release moves the story along to the formation of a committee encourage the NFL to locate a franchise in Indy; and a brochure from said committee makes a convincing case, playing up the city's accessibility, proven attractiveness to sports fans and leading U.S. sports medicine center.

Hudnut's correspondence suggests there was some dissension among the city's political and business leaders. Robert V. Welch, who unsuccessfully ran against Hudnut for mayor in 1975, cautions the mayor in 1984 against spoiling all his good, gradual work to bring a team to the city: "I am concerned that an overt attempt to lure the Colts from their present home, if unsuccessful, will detract greatly from the dignity of our position with the League that has been so painstakingly developed over many years."

Hudnut goes on wooing Irsay, of course, as in a 1984 letter that lays the groundwork for the team's infamous overnight move: "Mayflower Moving Company, through its Chairman Johnny B. Smith, who is a suite owner in the Dome, has offered to move all your office and training facility equipment out here on a moment's notice free of charge (with the hope that Mayflower will be given the opportunity subsequently to move your personnel to Indianapolis at a reduced mass-move rate)." (PDF)

Which brings us back to the letter that begins this blog, written by an anonymous Maryland resident to the mayor's office and stamped June 21, 1984 (with the red-penciled filing note "F/Colts" in another hand). A clever enough piece of hate mail; one wonders if all such missives were so profanity-free.

Also of interest are some false starts: The Indiana Baseball Committee, established in July 1982 with the goal of bringing an MLB franchise to town, reports optimistically but guardedly that same year: "Indiana's chances of fielding a major league baseball team within the next three years have taken a giant leap forward, according to the chairman of the Indiana Major League Baseball Committee." And a proposal to host Super Bowl XXVI unsuccessfully makes the same points raised during the XLVI process, stressing Indy as an "all weather site." (PDF)


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