|A Year of Indiana History - 2016|
Two long-term events came together in the early morning hours of March 29, 1984 when the Mayflower vans arrived in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana bringing with them the city's long time sought after NFL franchise. The city of Indianapolis' long-term program of downtown revitalization let to the construction of a new stadium in 1983. Robert Irsay, owner of the Baltimore Colts, had held long running negotiations with the city of Baltimore for a new stadium which had not borne fruit. When the state of Maryland threatened to take his team, Irsay loaded his team's equipment on fifteen Mayflower trucks on the night of March 28, 1984 and moved it out of the state.
Downtown revitalization for Indianapolis began under the mayor ship of Richard Lugar and continued under his successor William Hudnut. The program kicked off with the opening of a new home for the Indiana Pacers in 1974, Market Square Arena. Between 1974 and 1990 Indianapolis invested about three billion dollars in the downtown area, culminating with the opening of Circle Centre Mall in 1994. To help bolster the city's growing convention business, the city had constructed a new convention center in 1972. To boost its 1,300,000 square feet of convention space, the city constructed the Hoosier Dome in 1983. The Hoosier Dome, later renamed the RCA Dome, connected with the convention center to form one huge convention complex. The secondary purpose of the Hoosier Dome was to attract an NFL franchise.
Irsay and Baltimore Spat
Problems between the Colts and Baltimore had begun in 1972 under then owner Carroll Rosenbloom. Baltimore had announced it would increase the stadium rental fees they charged the Colts. Rosenbloom responded by threatening to move the team if the city did not make revenue enhancing improvements to the stadium. The spat continued after Irsay purchased the team in 1972. Study followed study and proposal followed proposal. Irsay had negotiated with several cities to move the team, including Indianapolis. On March 2, 1984 the NFL voted to allow Irsay to move the team anywhere he wanted. On March 27, 1984 the Maryland Senate passed a bill that would allow Baltimore to seize the team from Irsay. On March 28 Irsay phoned Indianapolis Mayor William Hudnut. The two men finalized a deal. Hudnut phoned Mayflower, which is based in Indiana, and asked the company to help. The owner of the company, a personal friend of the Mayor, complied with the request. During the late night and early morning hours fifteen trucks loaded the equipment and left by different routes to Indiana. The next day the Maryland House of Representatives passed the bill authorizing the use of eminent domain to seize the Colts and the governor signed the bill. But the Colts were gone and there was nothing in Maryland to seize
A Year of Indiana History - 2016
© Paul Wonning