The Herald Bulletin

August 17, 2011

Colts camp serves as economic boost

Many businesses see increase in sales, others see a drop from last year

By Melanie D. Hayes
The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — Colts fans wearing team jerseys have flocked to a nearby CVS on their way to Colts training camp, picking up snacks, drinks and team souvenirs. But the most sought-after items were permanent Sharpie markers.

“We sold practically every single one of them,” said Doris Wilson, a saleswoman at the CVS at Scatterfield Road and University Boulevard. “People buy them and take them to the camp to get autographs.”

The CVS is a short walking or driving distance from the camp, and a convenient location for fans to grab last-minute items for their visit.

Many other area businesses have also seen an increase in traffic and sales due to the thousands of Colts camp visitors.

“The camp has brought in a lot of people,” said Wilson, 78, of Anderson. “We even had to get an extra cooler to keep ice since we have been selling so much of it.”

Wilson said she has met patrons who were visiting from Ohio, Illinois and Michigan. Everyone has been friendly and looked excited as they prepared to head toward the camp at Anderson University.

“One guy had a really nice camera and he used it to take very good pictures of all the players he could get,” she said. “Then he came in here and had the photos printed into 8-by-10 (inch) pictures. His plan was to take them back to the camp and get them autographed. He really has something going there.”

Linda Dawson, the city’s economic development director, said Colts camp definitely has a positive impact on businesses and the economy.

Last year’s camp had an estimated impact of $6.4 million on the local economy. Dawson said figures for this year won’t be available for some time.

The city determines part of the impact based on the amount spent on innkeepers taxes at hotels and food and beverage taxes at restaurants during camp, she said.

Attendance has been a little lower this year than last year, probably because camp was held on several days that went well above the 90-degree mark, Dawson said.

Tuesday night’s practice brought the turnout to almost 71,000, compared to the 85,000 during last year’s 18-day camp. Today is the camp’s last day.

Besides helping businesses, the camp gets the city’s name out there, which could help in the future, Dawson said.

“Every time someone reports on Colts camp, or Peyton Manning or another player, the (dateline) is Anderson, Ind.,” she said. “It gives us national exposure. It’s difficult to purchase that type of exposure.”   

Hoosier Park Racing and Casino had lots of fans wearing blue show up there during Colts camp, but it won’t know the true impact of the camp until the end of the month when those studies are compiled, said spokesman Grant Scharton.

Having Colts camp in Anderson absolutely helps the casino and racetrack, he said. Some Colts players even dined at its Home Stretch Steakhouse.

“It is a great asset to Hoosier Park,” Scharton said. “It truly sets Hoosier Park apart from other Indiana area casinos to have that resource just down the road.

“We encourage guests to make it an all-day entertainment experience with Colts training camp and Hoosier Park.”

But the Garden Hotel, a 145-room hotel just north of the Interstate 69 exit onto Scatterfield Road, and the first one visitors would pass, has not seen an increase in business this year during camp, said Kristen Schaefer, an assistant manager.

Last year, the hotel had five or six rooms taken by Colts fans who stayed for two or three nights each.

“There were Colts jerseys everywhere,” Schaefer said. “This year I have not seen one jersey (in the hotel).”

Managers at several other nearby hotels were not available Wednesday evening to comment.

Greek’s Pizzeria, just east of Colts camp on University Boulevard, has been busy before and after training each day, as fans seek out lunch or dinner.

“There has been an impact, but not near the impact as last year,” he said. “I could tell at last year’s Colts camp there was a lot more excitement.”

In addition to his store, Miller set up a tent at the camp and sold pizza every day, which was also popular. He watched the crowd come and go, and it did not seem as big of a turnout as last year.

He blames the lower attendance on several things.

“I think it was a little bit because the heat, a lot because Peyton Manning was not practicing, and maybe because people were bitter about the lockout,” Miller said.

“(The Colts) only had three night practices,” he said. “If they want to draw a crowd and help businesses, they should have every practice at night. People would be off work and it would be a little cooler.”

Business has been good, though, and the camp has also served as means of exposure for his restaurant. As people drive or walk by the restaurant or tent, they see the Greek’s Pizzeria sign, and Miller hopes that will encourage them to stop by in the future.

Gene’s Rootbeer, also near the camp, has seen its sales increase by 10 or 15 percent during the Colts’ visit, said owner Andy Moorman. And its exposure has improved through repeat visits and word-of-mouth.

“I think it was busier this year than last. At least we became more popular,” he said.

“Before and after each practice, we got a nice push out of it. I was very pleased,” he said. “And now the Colts have signed on for another five years (of training camp in Anderson), so I’m excited about that.”

Contact Melanie D. Hayes: 648-4250, melanie.hayes@heraldbulletin.com