By Stuart Hirsch
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
Local businesses and restaurants report mixed results from the three-week Indianapolis Colts training camp scheduled to conclude on Friday.
With the departure of iconic quarterback Peyton Manning and other popular players like Dallas Clark, Jeff Saturday and Joseph Addai, few expected record-breaking attendance numbers this year, despite the promise of Andrew Luck.
What’s more, the combination of unrelenting heat, drought and closed morning practices may have further depressed attendance.
But Colts fans got what they longed for at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday: an impressive opening performance by Andrew Luck, who led the Colts to a 38-3 victory over the St. Louis Rams.
Now, with three days of camp yet to go, local retailers hope Sunday’s win will bring fans swarming Anderson University for a final night practice on Thursday, followed by an equally well-attended send-off Friday as the team breaks camp and returns to Indianapolis.
Gene’s Root Beer owner Andrew Mooreman said there was a more vibrant than normal lunch rush and a pickup in business after practices concluded in the afternoon, but “it certainly wasn’t the impact of previous years.”
Lemon Drop owner Bill Pitts didn’t see any appreciable increase in sales during training camp, but he did see an increase in the number of customers wearing Colts attire.
“It was about the same for us,” Pitts said of business during camp, but he did acknowledge that with its location on Mounds Road “we’re a little off the beaten path.”
Before camp began, Jeremy Parker, owner of Squeeze Play, said he added both inventory and a temporary location at the former Bixby’s Cafe on University Boulevard.
Sales weren’t horrible, he said, but the elimination of morning practice meant potential customers didn’t have an hour to eat and shop as they’ve had in years past.
“Thursday night practices are always our best for business because it draws more people,” he noted, adding that he hopes rain predicted for tomorrow night won’t materialize.
At Moneyhun’s Fine Gifts and Furnishings downtown, owner Nancy Moneyhun thinks more people ventured into her store on West Eighth Street last year than this.
Because directions to Anderson University routed fans off Interstate 69 north onto Scatterfield Road, “only the visitors that were adventuresome would have probably found us.”
Still, she believes training camp is a positive experience for the community.
“It’s a good thing that they come, I think,” she said. “It gives everybody a positive outlook.”
With training camp now in its third consecutive year, Hoosier Park Racing & Casino spokesman Grant Scharton said, “We are noticing more visitors enjoying the Colts camp and Hoosier Park together as a combined entertainment experience.”
Dining specials and giveaways combined with gaming, racing and other entertainment options have been popular with guests during camp, he said.
Find Stu Hirsch on Facebook and @StuHirsch on Twitter, or call 640-4861.