State Representative Earl Harris of East Chicago spoke during the NFL season of placing a team right here in Northwest Indiana. Imagine: one day years from now, around this time of year, the Region might be hosting the Super Bowl…
Yeah, I don’t have to elaborate on how farfetched this idea is. But I’m going to anyway.
An NFL team would need a pricey, state-of-the-art stadium. The Colts’ Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis cost over $700 million, and that was actually on the cheaper end of things. Stadiums built since its opening in 2008 have soared past $1 billion, and in most cases, the cities or counties had to pay a good chunk of it.
It’s been so hard to get towns to raise funds for expansion of the South Shore that the project seems as if it’s decades from ever happening. But who knows? Maybe citizens and communities will be more willing to fund a new complex that many of them won’t be able to afford to attend.
Even if they are, there’s also the question of where such a stadium would be located. We wouldn’t have to just make room for the stadium itself, either; the state of the Region’s public transit would make driving the default mode of transportation to games. This would require many acres of parking lots, or at the very least a number of parking garages. For reference, the Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium complex, including parking, spreads across 150 acres.
Then there’s the task of building a fan base. Northwest Indiana has historically been Bears territory and also has healthy contingents of Colts and Packers fans. In addition to competing with those teams, the structure of the NFL’s TV contract (where the whole league negotiates with the major networks, rather than each franchise seeking their own TV deals) would put the Region team at a disadvantage. All our “local” network affiliates are, in fact, Chicago stations. And while they might conceivably show Northwest Indiana’s team as their second game each Sunday, they’re always going to give the Bears precedence.
Believe it or not, an NFL team in the Region is not entirely unprecedented. The Hammond Pros played seven seasons in the 1920s. But back then, television didn’t exist, and the NFL was a nascent organization of small-town teams playing in tiny stadiums in front of handfuls of fans for little profit. The Pros were also only based in Hammond, playing all their games on the road as a travelling team.
In that NFL, the Region was capable of housing a team. Now, it’d be like trying to drive a golf cart in the Indy 500.