COLTS MOVE TO INDIANAPOLIS
Meanwhile, in Indianapolis, thanks to the efforts of local real estate developer Robert Welch, and the decision to build the Hoosier Dome, hopes were high that the city would be getting an NFL expansion team, with Welch as team owner. However, in January 1984, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle annnounced that expansion had been put on hold.
Indianapolis Colts owner Robert Irsay is welcomed to Indianapolis by Mayor Bill Hudnut at a ceremoney at the Hoosier Dome on April 2, 1984.
Then came word that Robert Irsay was unhappy in Baltimore and shopping his Colts around. Indiana Pacers' owner Herb Simon made the initial contact with Colts officials and on February 13, Colts representatives came to town to look at the Hoosier Dome. Negotiations with Indianapolis, and several other cities, were reported during the next six weeks amid speculation that Irsay was only pretending to negotiate to get a better deal in Baltimore.
In the midst of the Colts negotiations, Welch confirmed that he had been in talks with New Orleans Saints owner John Mecom about buying the team and moving it to Indianapolis. But Mecom decided he wanted to keep the team in New Orleans. Upon hearing that the Colts might relocate, Mayor Bill Hudnut formed what came to be called the "706 Club" (the number of the room in the Columbia Club where they met), composed of David Frick (who was the chief negotiator of the ultimate deal with Irsay), Nick Frenzel, James T. Morris, Herb Simon, P.E. MacAllister and Tom Moses. On February 26, Hudnut met with Welch, who led the movement to build the Hoosier Dome and bring professional football to Indianapolis, to tell him about the Colts and to seek his support. Those working to acquire the team endured a month of planning, negotiating, frustration, uncertainty and rumors that the Colts were going elsewhere, or not moving at all. Phoenix businessmen withdrew their offer the morning of March 28 and Irsay called Hudnut that afternoon and told him the team was coming. Hudnut immediately called John B. Smith, his friend, neighbor and chief executive officer of Mayflower Transit Co., and the moving vans were on their way.
A Mayflower van leaves Baltimore March 29, 1984. (AP photo)
The vans arrived that night in Owings Mills, in suburban Baltimore, and in a late-season snow storm were loaded with business records, official books and equipment and the move to Indianapolis was on, with Mayflower picking up the tab. Once loaded, the vans headed in various directions in an effort to camouflage the move. The dramatic move enraged citizens and officials of Baltimore, and the state of Maryland. Irsay's son Jim said moving the team was a difficult decision, and one his father had hoped not to have to make. The final straw, necessitating the dramatic move, was action by the Maryland legislature to use eminent domain laws to force the franchise to remain in Maryland.
Mayor Hudnut held a press conference March 29 to announce an agreement had been reached and the team was moving to Indianapolis. The deal was sealed March 30 with approval by the Capital Improvement Board, which operated the Hoosier Dome. A legal battle ensued, which ultimately reached the U.S. Supreme Court, and bills were filed in both the U.S. House and Senate seeking to block the move. In December 1985, a U.S. District Court judge threw out the lawsuit which sought to return the team to Maryland. In March 1986, an agreement was reached between the city of Baltimore and the Colts. It allowed for dismissal of all suits seeking to return the team, and for the Indianapolis Colts organization to endorse a new NFL team for Baltimore.
The theft of the Colts by the city of Indianapolis is a theft which was brazen in that both Mayor Hudnut AND Robert Irsay denied that any move was taking place and did so PUBLICALLY on television WHILE the Mayflower vans were enroute to the Owings Mills facility.
I watched William Donald Schaffer being interviewed with tears in his eyes as the vans rolled out of Owings Mills. Even though I was a Redskin fan and not a Colt fan I curse the Colts every year and relish in every loss in the playoffs.
While the Ravens may have failed to avenge this today there will never be any forgiveness for this act in my lifetime.
(Old and Decrepit @ 185 Pounds)
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