Final Four road ends in often-used Lucas Oil Stadium
It would bea gross overstep to call Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis America’s Stadium, but the heavy use of this Midwest venue since it opened in 2008 has included marquee NFL and NCAA football games as well as the NCAA tournament.
Already, the home of the Colts has hosted a Final Four (2010) and a Super Bowl (2012) and features everything from Big 10 football championships to the NFL combine. Coming next? The 2015 Final Four.
Last year’s NCAA tournament saw Lucas Oil Stadium host the Midwest Regional finals in a trial run to this year’s championship hosting—similar to how Houston’s NRG Stadium made the Regional rotation this year prior to next year’s Final Four.
But the entire basketball-hosting extravaganza gets stepped up a bit for the Final Four.
The NFL-sized venue will hold “a tad under 72,000” folks for the Final Four, according to NCAA spokesperson David Worlock. To make this work with a basketball floor instead of a football field, the NCAA will mimic what it did last year by placing the court in the center of the stadium.
First done by the NCAA in 2008, moving the floor to midfield opens up more seating than having the floor tucked at one end. Raising the floor just over two feet, as we’ll see at Lucas Oil Stadium again this year, provides better sightlines for the fans. This also gives us coaches on stools, always a fun treat.
To pull fans closer to the hardwood and create a basketball environment, L.J. Wright, men’s basketball championships director, tells SI.com they will bring in just under 14,449 temporary seats for the Indianapolis weekend.
As we saw last year at AT&T Stadium, a portion of the temporary seats drape over permanent seats to help mesh the lower bowl with the temporary structures.
Fans sitting a distance from the court could spend as much time gazing at the architectural allure of Lucas Oil Stadium as the game itself. The HKS-designed venue features a retractable roof as a main attraction. While it will obviously remain closed, the long, narrow roof panels stack over the building when the two-panel roof design travels on five rails and creates a 176,400-square-foot opening. To add to the fresh-air options, the venue also has a six-panel north window that opens to the Indiana air.
On the outside, the reddish-brown brick building features Indiana limestone, steel and glass to match other downtown buildings in a turn-of-the-century aesthetic.
The traditional materials merge with modern amenities and design to give Indianapolis a stadium America loves to visit. On Monday, there will be one team that loves Lucas Oil Stadium more than any other.
Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and gear for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.