Anderson businesses ready to show what city has to offer without Colts camp

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ANDERSON, Ind. - For the second time, the Indianapolis Colts have no announced plans to take training camp back to Madison County, but business leaders said they're ready to show Indiana other attractions that will bring in visitors.

Earlier this week, the Colts announced they would begin holding training camp at Grand Park in Westfield starting in 2018. It's a move that will put the Colts there for at least 10 years.

Training camp was last held at Anderson University prior to the 2016 NFL season.

“It’s going to be a loss," said Anderson Madison County Visitors Bureau executive director Matt Rust.

Rust didn't have specifics to attendance for training camp when the Colts were in Anderson between 2010 and 2016, but said attendance had dropped over the seven years.

He added it might not have been due to any move by the Colts either, but rather changes in league rules to the number of practices or kinds of practice the Colts could run and the fact that more schools are starting the year earlier, limiting when families can bring their children out to see the team.

Before the Colts ever played a snap at the Hoosier Dome, fans first saw the team on the practice field in Anderson. It was where the Colts held their first training camp, taking place in 1984.

It stayed there until 1998, and was moved to Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology the following year where it remained until returning to Anderson in 2010.

“What did we do after they left the first time, life went on and we survived," said Rust.

Rust said businesses hit the hardest with the loss of Colts' camp, which typically lasts up to three weeks, beginning in late July, are the city's gas stations and restaurants where fans would visit during their visits. However, it won't have a great impact on hotels as the majority of fans would head home each night after practiced ended.

Signs would hang in Anderson stating it was the home of Colts training camp, but business owners want their community to be known for other attractions that they hope are or will become just as popular.

“In the next five years, it is really going to be an attraction for more than just a one time a year Colts training camp," said Brent Doster, a co-founder at The Historic State Theatre. "For folks to come here in the summer, enjoy the town center, hear a great rock show, or a live comedian.”

Doster and a friend are renovating the old Anderson State Theatre, which stopped playing films around 2004 and other shows by 2010. It's sat empty ever since.

Work should be complete around Halloween, allowing the owners to open its doors as a new concert hall with a party at the end of October. It's already booked its first act when it opens in July of 2018, Killer Queen - known as Europe's best tribute to queen band.

“For someone who has lived here, and gone through the boom GM days and through some of those hard years, I see a different trajectory now," said Doster, who believes Anderson will soon be known for its art-related attractions.

Just a few blocks away, Jerrad Oakley is working on an old law firm, which was also once a Buick dealership, to build what he says is the first brewery in Anderson.

“Craft beer is very hot, it has been for quite some time," said Oakley, who wants Oakley Brothers Distillery in October. "There is a following of people who will just go take a weekend trip to see different breweries.”

Oakley's business will also hold CT Doxey Brewing inside.

He said if Colts fans only came to Anderson once a year, only to see their team practice, they should make another visit.

“Come back and visit, come back and check it out, it’s changing," Oakley said. "There is a lot of energy, a lot of pride. People are putting a lot into it.”

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