By Jack Molitor
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. — Campus is beautiful. City needs some work.
That was the unfortunate refrain of many fans visiting Anderson University Tuesday for Indianapolis Colts afternoon practice. While most of them took the day off from work to make a day trip with their children to see the team, many had no plans to stay in town after practice was over. In and out.
"You drive through town, and it's really run down. A lot of buildings are boarded up. It's pretty concerning," said Peter Rice of Indianapolis.
It was the first attended practice this year for Rice, a student at Purdue University who made one final summer road trip with close family friends the Koziols. Rice said the campus was quite impressive, and he recognizes that the city has made strides to improve its image, especially with a professional franchise as short-term tenants. Still, outside trips to see the Colts at training camp and occasional visits to friends who attend AU, Rice has little reason to spend money here.
"We didn't take any of the main roads to come here, and you can see in a lot of areas where the city is struggling," Rice said. "I just have no motivation to stay [after practice.]"
While Anderson's economic and general ills aren't news, the city fought to bring back the Colts for the economic boon it would presumably create for the surrounding communities. Rice and the Koziols said they're sure having the team in town for training camp was good for the economy, though they had no intention of contributing.
With a feverish excitement surrounding the team and a mild summer yielding beautiful weather, the Colts have reaped one of their most successful campaigns strictly by attendance, with droves of fans coming out to quench their thirst for America's new pastime. Roughly 1,000 came to see practice Tuesday. But is it really benefiting the city?
If nothing else, the fans appreciate the convenience of camp being in Anderson. Tad Williams of Lawrence came with his wife Lisa and their two daughters, Monica and Camryn. The Williamses, like many coming from the Indianapolis area, shot up I-69 for the easy trek to AU. The girls were excited to catch a glimpse of their favorite player, Andrew Luck, and possibly get an autograph.
Tad Williams, who used to work for the team, has been to training camps here and Terre Haute and said Anderson is definitely the preferable venue. Still, even with his familiarity with town, the family just came to get in and out of camp.
"There's just not a lot to do after this," Williams said.
Even though local businesses might not be seeing the direct benefits, fans raved about the campus and the actual training camp experience presented by the Colts.
Chris Johnson, who has also attended training camps for years at both locations, agreed that Anderson is a superior location to Terre Haute for several reasons. Johnson, who came to camp with his two sons Liam and Quentin, lives in Anderson now but has had jobs around the state and the country. He said the city seems to take much more pride in hosting the Colts than Terre Haute did and other cities that host NFL teams.
"The city really gets behind the camp and really supports the team. The campus has really improved its facilities and the city markets the team well. And the Colts do a good job here, too. The Colts City is a lot larger than it was in Terre Haute, and there's a lot more to do," Johnson said.
Several fans did acknowledge some of the economic improvements that have been made, especially along the I-69 corridor. Chris Titzer of Cincinnati came Tuesday with his sons Kevin and Matthew for his first-ever training camp experience. He's been a Colts fan since they moved to Indianapolis in 1984 and he was living in Evansville.
Titzer had never been to Anderson, though he's familiar with the economic turmoil of recent decades. He admitted he hadn't stopped in town on the way in, but said he might stop somewhere with his sons on the way back home.
"This is a beautiful campus, and the people here in town seem friendly. The atmosphere seems pretty positive," Titzer said.
Like Jack Molitor on Facebook and follow him @aggiejack4 on Twitter, or call 640-4883.