A version of this story was originallyÂ published in Greater Greater Washington as part a two-part series on urban football stadiums. Visit the original story for more comments, thoughts and opinions about case studies, both good and bad, of other recently built urban football stadiums in America.
The Indianapolis Colts have played in an urban football stadium since the teamâ€™s founding in 1984 when the Hoosier Dome (later changed to the RCA Dome) was built in the heart of downtown. For the following 24 seasons, the Colts called this mega-structure home.Â The Dome was akin to the Metrodome or Carrier Dome and sat next to the Indianapolis Convention Center.Â Together, the two uses made up a large superblock in downtown Indianapolis that created monotonous urban forms and destroyed vitality in the surrounding area.Â And yet, the RCA Dome could be considered a decent urban football stadium because the structure was built to the street right-of-way, featured large entryways off the sidewalk, and was decently integrated into the urban fabric as no surface parking lots surrounded the stadium.Â In late 2008 the Dome, seen as a relic of a past era, was demolished and the neighboring convention center expanded onto the site.Â This signified a new era in Colts football history, as they moved into the sparkling new Lucas Oil Stadium a few blocks south.
Photo by JFeister on Flickr.
To say Lucas Oil Stadium is a mega-structure might be putting it mildly.Â The hulking stadium is roughly the size of two large downtown blocks, with its surrounding landscaping, parking, and entryway features taking up an additional four to five blocks.Â Needless to say, Lucas Oil Stadium is now a prominent fixture in the Indianapolis skyline, often dwarfing the neighboring skyscrapers. Â On the positive, the architecture harkins back to the day of field house structures in which Indianapolis has long had a love affair with.Â From this standpoint, Lucas Oil is a success, providing the urban environment a beautiful building that represents the cityâ€™s sports venue value system.
In terms of accessibility and walkability, the stadium does well in some points and fails in others.Â The stadium is easily accessible from the north, east, and west bounding streets, as the structure features small to medium setbacks with significant entrances from streets that provide large sidewalks for often heavy pedestrian traffic.Â From the south, the areaâ€™s walkability is poor, as a large parking lot hampers accessibility and diminishes site functionality.Â Also, numerous bus lines run along South Street and surrounding downtown streets, allowing for easy access via IndyGo.
By 2012, the Indianapolis Cultural Trail will link Lucas Oil Stadium directly to downtownâ€™s main bike and pedestrian system, thus providing an important link to downtownâ€™s vibrant entertainment districts.Â This improvement, along with the new Georgia Street reconfiguration that will provide a pedestrian-oriented, entertainment focused corridor, is proof positive that Indianapolis is attempting to incorporate Lucas Oil Stadium into downtownâ€™s pedestrian experience and make the area more walkable.
Still, much attention is needed to the site if the City ever wants to be successful in integrating Lucas Oil Stadium into the urban environment.Â As of today, the stadium site sits on a mega block, offering poor street and pedestrian connectivity to the surrounding street grid and neighborhood.Â Plus, the stadium is placed at an extreme angle to the traditional street grid, creating odd open spaces around the stadium and disallowing a vibrant urban atmosphere to be achieved.
And of course, as has long been the chief complaint against urban football stadiums, the structure is so large and monotonous in form that active street life is hampered, something that is especially unfortunate given the few times the stadium is actually used throughout the year.Â Thus, the stadium causes a relative dead zone on the southern edge of downtown Indianapolis, an area that is in desperate need of urban forms to reactivate the area and connect it with the vibrant Meridian Street and Illinois Street to the immediate north.
Looking towards the future, integrating Lucas Oil into an urban environment like downtown Indianapolis’s southern edge will prove to be difficult. Still though, improvements can be made that can create a more vibrant, sustainable district with activated street life. Connecting the Cultural Trail to the stadium is an important first step. From there, the street grid needs to be reinforced to the stadium’s south end and transportation circulation needs to be improved, urban forms need to be constructed to the north and east edge, and urban infill needs to occur to the west.
If plans such as these are put forward and actually implemented, Lucas Oil Stadium could quickly become a poster child for successful urban football stadiums in the United States.Â But the stadium is still in its infancy and full plans for the area have yet to be developed, so only time will tell if such ambitions will be achieved.