WELL-OILED MACHINE: George Strait drew more than 51,000 fans to Lucas Oil Stadium in May, supported by Chris Stapleton. Stadium officials are focused on booking more concerts at the NFL facility. (Courtesy venue)

Downtown layout conducive to stadium shows

INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana — Lucas Oil Stadium’s special event calendar is busier than ever heading into its 16th year of operation, due in part to putting a greater emphasis on booking concerts at the 70,000-capacity building.

The home of the NFL Colts has seven shows booked for 2024, anchored by three sold-out Taylor Swift performances, Nov. 1-3. By comparison, Lucas Oil Stadium had a total of 10 concerts over its first 15 years of existence.

Pink takes place Oct. 12 at the stadium. Earlier this year, Morgan Wallen played twice at the venue in April, in addition to George Strait/Chris Stapleton in May, which drew more than 51,000 attendees and surpassed $13.8 million in gross ticket sales, according to Pollstar data.

Eric Neuburger, Lucas Oil Stadium’s director, said concerts were not a high priority in the past due to the toll it takes on facility staff and the building itself, plus the time and energy it takes to secure those events. Plus, Indy hasn’t always been on the map for stadium shows in a competitive marketplace in the Midwest.

Now, the Capital Improvement Board, the group that oversees the stadium, has committed to bringing more high-profile shows to the stadium, which provides event certainty with its retractable roof.

As part of the process, stadium officials spend more time at the various trade shows, getting to know the agents and promoters, such as Live Nation and AEG, including its subsidiary, The Messina Group, which produces tours including those by Taylor Swift and George Strait.

“This is a good year for concerts,” Neuburger said. “We’re already working on 2025 and will see how the (recent softness in the market) affects us. It takes a special show to do well in Indianapolis, considering they’re not skipping Chicago and other big markets in the region. They’ve got to be a big enough artist to play all those markets. Plus, sometimes, there’s luck in the scheduling. We keep our eyes out for big opportunities, and so far, it’s paid off.”

Lucas Oil Stadium stands as one of only three U.S. venues to play host to Taylor Swift’s “Eras” tour in 2024, along with the Caesars Superdome and Hard Rock Stadium. For Indy, the Swift dates were announced last August as the artist returns to the stadium for the first time since 2018. The “Reputation” tour held the venue’s concert attendance record at 55,000-plus until Wallen broke it this year with 67,000 attendees for both dates, local media reported.

All told, it will be Swift’s third performance at Lucas Oil Stadium. Her first show there was a private event for the Future Farmers of America conference, shortly after the facility opened in 2008.

Capacity will approach 70,000 for this year’s Swift run. Tracking the onslaught of Swifties, the data shows 87% of ticket buyers come from outside the Indianapolis metropolitan area and 80% from outside the state of Indiana.

“We’re trying to put our Indy stamp on it, give (the tour) some opportunities that others may not have thought of it make it more of a takeover of the city,” Neuburger said. “More details will be announced later.”

Downtown Indy sets itself up nicely for mega events, whether it’s the Super Bowl, Final Four or Taylor Swift, with a large concentration of hotels, bars and restaurants within walking distance of Lucas Oil Stadium.

The construction of a new 800-room Hilton hotel, developed under the Signia brand, will strengthen the city’s reputation as a tourist-friendly destination. The $710 million project, spanning 40 stories, built at the old Pan Am Plaza site, will connect to the Indiana Convention Center, which, in turn, is attached to Lucas Oil Stadium. The hotel is expected to open in the summer of 2026.

For the CIB, which also governs the convention center, the new Hilton property will expand booking opportunities with a new 50,000-square-foot ballroom at the base of the building. It will enable the city to hold two midsize conventions at the same time, which has not been the case to this point, due in part to limited ballroom space.

Apart from the sports and convention facilities, other entertainment venues in town will reap the benefits of the new hotel, Neuberger said.

“Everything is connected by skywalk to the stadium and convention center,” he said. “That’s one of the things that makes Indianapolis stand out. We’re made for this stuff. We have the Final Four in 2026 and 2029 and the hotel will be open for the 2029 event.”

At Lucas Oil Stadium, new digital menu boards greeted fans attending the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials, which drew more than 285,000 spectators over nine days. The technology has been around for a decade now, but the Capital Improvement Board held back until officials knew what they wanted, Neuburger said.

The LG displays, powered by Vitech software, extend to new house monitors on the concourse. The investment was $950,000, paid for by the CIB. The screens provide Sodexo Live!, the stadium’s concessionaire, with the flexibility to change prices, push specific products and promote future events with a push of a computer button, he said.

Upgraded technology extends to the convention center as well. There’s new digital signage in all the rooms and the CIB is going through the process for converting its access control system to electronic card keys.

“We’re trying to stay at the top of our game,” Neuburger said. “The volume of an NFL stadium is way different than an arena. We try to customize it to help all events.”