On Wednesday morning, Colts players reported to training camp at Grand Park in Westfield.
On Wednesday evening, Colts mascot, Blue, joined them.
“In the spirit of training camp, Blue camped out to kick off our second year at Grand Park,” said Colts Events Manager Chelsea Durham.
In the morning, Blue got right to work - cooking breakfast and feeding staff and members of the media before officially raising the flag to open camp.
On Thursday afternoon, the fans reported to camp.
It was a day they had been waiting on for months.
“I’m a Colts fan,” said Carvay Jackson. “They call for the Colts, ‘Hey, we need all the Colts fans to be here,’ I’ll be the first one in line.”
Jackson and Patrick Doerflein arrived at 11 AM and were among the first to walk through when the gates opened at 1:00.
“I came out last year and had a fantastic time. I got Darius Leonard’s autograph. I’ve got his jersey on this year, hopefully I can get that signed,” said Doerflein. “To me, that’s the fun part of being a fan - is being able to interact with the players you love on the team that you love and get that closeness.”
And this year, Colts fans can get even closer to their team - with standing room only sections on the practice field.
“That’s all Chris Ballard’s idea, he gets full credit for that - wanting fans to be as close to the action as they can be,” said Durham. “The Colts organization as a whole really values training camp and the experience it can bring for the fans.”
Bringing fans on the journey has always been a priority for Colts General Manager Chris Ballard.
“Every fan matters to us. I don’t take any of them for granted and never will,” he said. “I am thankful for the people that come out and support us. We want to get as many people as we can to training camp. This is a great opportunity to see our team.”
The Indianapolis Colts opened training camp today and fans of all ages made their way to Grand Park to watch the team practice, meet their favorite players and partake in activities at Colts City.
With a number of new theme days, there’s truly something for everybody.
“We wanted to be able to give people an extra special reason to come out to training camp,” Durham said. “We’ll have some fun activities on Grandparents Day, so bring your grandparents. We’ll have a balloon artist in Colts City for Moms and Tots Day Out. We’ll have some special activities for kids and special concession deals. For Kids Day this Saturday, we’re going to have a rock wall and an extreme trampoline flier along with face painters. For Thirsty Thursday, our final day of training camp, we’re going to have our gameday DJ, DJ GNO, out here getting fans excited for the last day of practice.”
As a family organization, the Colts want to make sure the whole family can come out and enjoy training camp, so they partnered with Mount Comfort RV and The Milk Bank and came up with the Mom Mobile.
Located between Colts City and the practice fields, the Mom Mobile can accommodate up to four moms and offers a clean, quiet space to nurse, pump, or change infants.
“With the installation of our Mamava pods last year at Lucas Oil Stadium, we really wanted to be able to offer that experience here at training camp as well,” said Durham. “We want moms to be able to do what they need to do and have a private space to nurse and cool down with little ones.”
With three women in ownership, it’s something they can relate to.
“We love that our fans want to bring their kids and babies to everything. We really try to think in that way,” said Kalen Jackson, Colts owner and vice chair. “Now that we’re young moms too, what would we want?”
The goal is to offer fans a fun, free way to get up close and personal with their team as they prepare for the season to come.
“We want there to be plenty of ways for people to be able to come and experience that relationship with us, the Horseshoe, and our players - even if they can’t make it to a game. Because those fans are just as important to us,” Jackson said. “We made training camp like a little mini summer camp - you could go every day and there would be something different.”
Because just like their team, some fans put in a lot of hard work in preparation for the season.
“We are the die-hard fan club for the Colts. The Blue Crew is out here today because the Colts were kind enough to offer us suite tickets,” said Brent Vogel, president of the oldest and largest Colts fan club. “We’ve been working so hard at this club. None of us get paid to do this. We’re just out here to have fun and tailgate and do whatever we can to support our team. So, it’s great that the Colts see that and offer us this opportunity.”
For Vogel, seeing fans standing on the field was a little nostalgic.
“I remember going to training camp practices in Terre Haute at Rose-Hulman during the Peyton Manning days. They would always have the twine up on the sideline and you could get up there and hang out and the players would come right up to you. It brings back the heydays. It’s kind of neat to see.”
This year, fans will also be able to get up close with the players in Colts City.
“We are in a new location for Colts City. We are on fields F4 and F5, right as you walk in off the parking lot at lot C, which is the main parking lot for fans,” Durham said. “They’ll be able to see the players as they pull out on their golf carts to make their way back to the event center."
In Colts City, fans will find a familiar face. The team had a Peyton Manning replica statue installed in the brand new Colts In Motion mobile experience, which also houses the Lombardi Trophy.
Because that’s the real purpose of training camp - to prepare the team for the long road ahead as they pursuit the ultimate goal.
Vogel is confident they’re on their way.
“I’ve already booked my condo down in Miami. The last two times the Super Bowl was down in Miami, the Colts were there.”
Practice kicked off with plenty of fanfare as skydivers from the Patriot Parachute Team dropped in to deliver the practice ball to Coach Frank Reich.
And then, the real work began.
“We want to generate that enthusiasm and excitement here for Colts fans, but when we come to work, the only thing that we’re concentrating on is meeting our own high expectations,” Reich said.
The expectations are sky high - and so is the enthusiasm.
“To see how many fans came out and this is only a Thursday. So imagine how it’ll be on a weekend, Saturday and Sunday,” said linebacker Anthony Walker. “It’s going to be fun.”
To join the fun, get the Colts training camp schedule, and download free tickets, go to: colts.com/camp.