Backtrack: The Colts’ First-Ever Home Game

Historic black and white photo of a man throwing a football from the stands to begin an NFL game.
The game was also a triumph for Mayor Bill Hudnut and other community leaders who had scored the city an NFL team.

Photo courtesy Indianapolis Recorder Collection, Indiana Historical Society

Although TV and print news had been full of stories about the Baltimore Colts slinking off in the night to their new Indianapolis home, when it happened, many in Indy found it hard to believe that their wishes had come true: We had a pro football team at long last. The city gave a raucous reception to the star athletes in its brand-new stadium, proudly named the Hoosier Dome.

Some behind-the-scenes deal-making by Robert Irsay scored the team, but, according to The Indianapolis News, it was “thanks to gutsy maneuvering of some of the city fathers and thanks to generosity of the Lilly Endowment and the Krannert Trust” that there was a stadium for the team to play in. The Hoosier Dome was almost as big a star of this first home game as the Colts were.

Fans had to wait a week after the start of the exhibition season for their first chance to watch the team at home. The Colts’ loss a week earlier in Miami didn’t dampen enthusiasm, though. The Indianapolis Star called it the morning of the game: “The day the city has long awaited is at hand,” proclaimed the front page of the newspaper on August 11, 1984. It was a sellout for the match between the Colts and the New York Giants. “If all goes well,” the Star promised, “the contest will mark the beginning of what Colts coach Frank Kush terms ‘a long and happy love affair.’”

“Full house of 60,098 wild fans spurred Colts to a 26-20 victory over Giants in Hoosier Dome’s first NFL game.” – The Indianapolis Star, August 12, 1984

Suffice to say that all went well. The next morning’s Star front page passed the word along to any readers who didn’t already know the game’s result: “Full house of 60,098 wild fans spurred Colts to a 26–20 victory over Giants in Hoosier Dome’s first NFL game.”

For Mayor Bill Hudnut, the game was “a dream come true,” and a good chunk of the city probably agreed.

Like all romances, the one between the city and the Colts has had its ups and downs. Everyone’s favorite quarterback, Peyton Manning, joined the team in 1998 and turned the squad back into hometown heroes. Lucas Oil Stadium replaced the Hoosier Dome (by then named the RCA Dome) in August 2008. But those wild Indianapolis fans continue to cheer on their Colts team. It’s been a 35-year love affair.