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Ben Smith

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Colts' new home is breathtaking

INDIANAPOLIS - Hey, this isn't so weird. Who says this is weird?

I mean, I've seen lots of football stadiums with gas pumps in them.

Oh, and giant quart bottles of oil, too.

Oh, and a pair of top fuel dragsters reared up on their fat rear tires, forming an arch inside one entrance to Lucas Oil Stadium.

Welcome, Blue Nation, to the new home of your Indianapolis Colts, and breathe deeply of (ahhh) that new stadium smell. Check out the brick and the steel and the glass and, yes, the sky, the roof parting like Moses' waters this warm August night as the Colts play host to the Buffalo Bills for a preseason game, the American flags and blue Colts championship banners stirring in God's breeze instead of man's. Ooh and ahh as the glass draws back like a curtain at the open north end, revealing a panoramic view of the new joint's sister arena, Conseco Fieldhouse.

Quite the ritzy digs, this Lucas Oil Stadium. Which of course is a name no one's ever going to forget, no matter what the owner of Lucas Oil says and no matter how many times we call it The Luke.

The Lucas Oil gas pump alone ensures that.

Oh, and the Lucas Oil giant quart of oil.

Oh, and the Lucas Oil dragsters, and the Lucas Oil speedboat hanging up there in the rafters, and the Lucas Oil race cars atop the retro-diner neon-and-steel food stands that bookend the lower concourse at the open north end, where dozens of blue Peyton Manning 18s and Marvin Harrison 88s and Dwight Freeney 93s scuff their feet across giant red letters that spell L-U-C-A-S.

So tell me again: What do they call this place?

And how much more timeless and elemental could they have made it, a conscious throwback doppelganger of Conseco across the way?

You can nitpick and say it's not as loud as the RCA Dome and the elevators are so slow their power source must surely be the Keebler Elves, but these are mere quibbles. At least the toilets worked, which wasn't always the case the night the Dome opened up.

And so here's what I will say, as the daylight fades and the lights of the city come up through the open end of The Luke: Give it time. Allow everyone to settle in. Let 'em stop gawking at the wonder of open and changing sky above them after 24 years of white blank-stare plastic overhead. Wait until they put down the cameras that flash and sparkle everywhere on this opening night, and start concentrating on once again making life a living hell for anyone with the nerve to wear a foreign jersey in here.

Who knows? Maybe one day we media types parked up here where the eagles soar will even be able to identify Reggie Wayne as the ant wearing 87 and Joseph Addai as the ant wearing 29.

Yes, we're a liiiittle bit airborne here in the new place. But again, that's a mere quibble.

The skinny on The Luke is it's an airy work of brick and steel and glass, and it has more character already than the Dome was ever going to. So well done, Indianapolis. Conseco now has its proper bookend, the Colts have a home worthy of the football it presumably will play inside it, and just now, as I watch the Colts and Bills go at it, I hear the TV field reporter say something I've never heard at a Colts game before.

"The wind is really starting to pick up down here," he says.

Weird, man. And cool, very cool.

Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by e-mail at bensmith@jg.net; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648 or at the “Ben Smith” topic of “The Board” at www.journalgazette.net.

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