Pacers considering all options - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

Pacers considering all options

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Mary Milz/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - The Indiana Pacers' future in Indianapolis could be in doubt. The team says continuing operating losses could force it to consider all of its options, including a move to another city.

As Eyewitness News first reported Monday, the Pacers say they are losing money and must renegotiate their Conseco Fieldhouse contract with the city.

Pacers Sports and Entertainment President Jim Morris said there was "an incredible sense of urgency. We need to have this resolved in the next 30 to 60 days."

The Pacers played their last home game Monday. Could it be their last at Conseco Fieldhouse?

"I try not to see a city without the Pacers, but it has to be a good deal for the city," said Mayor Greg Ballard.

While the Pacers haven't exercised their early out clause in their 20-year lease with the city, Morris made it clear they can no longer afford the $15 million a year it costs to run the Fieldhouse.

"Addressing that issue is fundamental to Indianapolis' ability to having an NBA team here long-term," said Morris.

Although the Pacers can't just pack up and move or sell the team without triggering a complicated process, Butler's Dan McQuiston said, "This threat is more real every day. We know more on the financial situation of the Pacers and the city since we talked last year."

The Simon family has reportedly lost some $200 million since buying the team in 1983. The city, meantime, has seen property tax and other revenue take a big dive.

"$15 million is a big number and it's going to be a tough sell," said McQuiston.

Vancouver, Charlotte and Seattle all lost NBA teams in the last decade. Don Welsh worked in Seattle when the Sonics were sold and moved to Oklahoma City.

"It was painful - lasted 18 months," said Welsh, Convention & Visitor Association.

The owner wanted Seattle to build a new half-billion dollar arena. The city said no. Ralph Morton with the Seattle Sports Commission told us by phone, "It was hard for Seattle. The Sonics were here for 40 years and were part of the community - but even harder after because of the impact of having a building that lost such a major tenant."

The Sonics, like the Pacers, brought dozens of concerts and shows to town.

"The hope is the NBA will come back but not without a strong guarantee to make that happen. If you look at other cities that have lost franchises it's a lot more expensive to get them back than keep them," said Morton.

"Herb Simon has steadfastly said the team is not for sale. The fact of the matter is there are a dozen cities in North America and around the world who would love to have a big league team," said Morris.

Still, if the Pacers left it wouldn't be without a hefty cost - at least $50 million in early out penalties and probably much more.

The mayor said he hopes they don't reach that point.

"We want to keep them here, but it has to be a good deal for the city and taxpayers and that's what we're trying to do," said Mayor Ballard.

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