CIB, Pacers reach short-term deal
The Pacers need more money. Now, Colts fans may be asked to chip in, along with Indians baseball fans. And possibly everyone that comes to Indianapolis and rents a car.
"You have to have a second job to go to a game now," said one Pacer fan.
The Pacers use Bankers Life Fieldhouse rent-free. The team keeps all the concession money and all of the ticket money. The city's only condition is that the Pacers maintain the building, which is estimated to cost $15 million a year.
Three years ago, Pacers management asked for money to help with the operation and maintenance of the building. Taxpayers came up $33 million. Now the team wants more, and this time the money could come from more taxes on professional sports tickets and rental cars. The city-county council will have to decide.
"Our hospitality taxes are already too high," said John Livengood of LMV Consulting. "They discourage people from coming here. As Visit Indy says, it is not the only factor, but it is a big factor."
During the NBA strike last year, downtown bars and restaurants claimed they were losing thousands for every missed game. The team's importance to downtown and its businesses appears to be a key reason the city is willing to pay millions to keep them in town.
But according to Forbes.com, the team is losing $15 million a year, and is ranked near the bottom of all NBA franchises.
Council president Maggie Lewis issued this statement about the proposed agreement with the Pacers:
"Approving the agreement with the Pacers moves this off of our list and allows us to place all of our emphasis on matters that are pressing to our constituencies and will keep moving Indianapolis forward."
The Pacers told Eyewitness News "We're grateful for the extension and support and we look forward to talking to the CIB more and reaching a long-term agreement."
The Indiana Pacers will call Indianapolis home for at least another year, as city officials seek a long-term deal.
Monday afternoon, the city's Capital Improvement Board, which runs the city's sports venue and convention center signed off on a one-year extension of the team's three-year "bridge agreement."
That agreement, which expires June 30, 2013, provided the Pacers with $10 million a year to cover the cost of operating and maintaining Bankers Life Fieldhouse. It also included $3.5 million for facility improvements.
The Pacers sought the help as they fell deeper in the red.
The extension provides the Pacers with another $10 million to cover operating expenses in 2013. CIB President Ann Lathrop said it also gives the CIB and city more time to "get a handle on the budget...clearly, budgets are tight all-around and we're trying to find a positive solution for all of us."
She noted the CIB had the $10 million in its current budget to cover the new appropriation.
"We're grateful for the extension and support and we look forward to talking to the CIB more and reaching a long-term agreement," Pacers spokesman Greg Schenkel said Monday evening.
The agreement comes as the CIB challenges a move by Council Democrats forcing it to pitch in $15 million toward public safety. The CIB has called it "an inappropriate expenditure," saying its monies are tied up in "future obligations."
Council President Maggie Lewis, also a member of the CIB, said while she wants to see the Pacers in Indianapolis long-term, she's also concerned about "how to move the city forward."
She characterized her "yes" vote on the Pacers extension as somewhat reluctant.
"I did it with the understanding and hope we will get dollars for public safety," Lewis said.
While the mayor's office has talked about raising car rental and the admission or ticket taxes to help fund a long-term Pacers deal, Lewis told Eyewitness News last month, she'd sign on only if some of that money went toward public safety.
She affirmed that position Monday, adding, "I'm not going to be the one asking the council to approve those taxes. If the mayor wants taxes, he's going to have to get out in front and have that conversation."
There's not much time to do so. The state law allowing the council to raise those taxes says the council must adopt them within the first two months of 2013.
Mayoral Spokesman Marc Lotter said they're glad to have more time to work out the Pacers deal and continue conversations with Council Democrats, noting any new tax revenue "could also help us address long-term public safety issues...we have to come together with our long-term fiscal problems."
Lathrop said the team was fine with the deal and negotiations would continue with an eye on hammering out a long-term deal.