New Stadium ready for Colts preseason game Aug. 24

INDIANAPOLIS -- It's almost time for football.

Except for a few cosmetic touch-ups, the new $700 million home of the Indianapolis Colts is ready to go, and a thank-you party Monday night for some 6,000 construction workers and their families offered a rousing dress rehearsal for the new stadium's grand opening less than two weeks away.

The first games in the new Lucas Oil Stadium will be a pair of high school doubleheaders on Aug. 22 and Aug. 23 in Peyton Manning's annual "PeyBack Classic," and the Colts will make their debut in their new home Aug. 24 in a preseason game against the Buffalo Bills.

"Basically, it's completed. Other than planting some flowers and cleaning up some elements, all the basic materials are done," said George Sechrist, president of BMG Event Productions, which threw Monday night's bash.

"This also gives us an opportunity to test out systems we normally wouldn't get to test. We get to test the food service, the bathrooms, the audio and the video systems," he said. "So all those systems are getting tested tonight as if it were for game time."

There was no formal program at the stadium, just food, games and prizes. Lines of workers and their families snaked their way from the entrance level down a twisting maze-like ramp to the field, passing through the Colts locker room and getting a chance to see the 2007 Super Bowl trophy.

"It's a way to say thanks to those hard workers, those blue-collar guys in the trenches, girls in the trenches that helped put this together, and it's going to be an icon for this city for the next 30 some-odd years," Sechrist said.

The 63,000-seat retractable-roof stadium, which replaces the soon-to-be-demolished RCA Dome as the Colts' home and will host the 2012 Super Bowl, will have another celebration for key customers and sponsors Thursday night and a ribbon-cutting ceremony and public tours on Saturday.

Construction on the stadium began in fall 2005, and the most serious problem occurred last month when several downspouts that carry rain away from the roof failed during a storm, flooding the basement telecommunications center.

"In order to fix it, the (drainage) system had to be separated, and that alleviated the problem," said Dwight Birdsong, who worked on the stadium plumbing. "I worked on the drains that were installed... and also the storm system. Also, we were in the process of bolting them up, making them tighter, putting more reinforcement on them.

"Everything's done. It's ready to go," Birdsong said.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.

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