Pacers unveil new scoreboard, other improvements


Bankers Life Fieldhouse is getting some gigantic upgrades, namely a huge multi-million dollar sate-of-the art scoreboard.

Pacers Sports & Entertainment unveiled the new high-definition system Thursday afternoon saying it was "unmatched."

The center-hung scoreboard has two twin video screens, each measuring 50 feet long and 21 feet high, which is nearly five times bigger than the old one.

Rick Fuson, chief operating officer of Pacers Sports and Entertainment, said, "It will make the fan experience more enjoyable, but it also gives us a competitive advantage drawing events."

Besides being home to the Pacers and the Fever, the fieldhouse hosts scores of other events each year, including concerts, Big Ten basketball and other sporting events.

The new scoreboard replaces the old one, which was brought from Market Square Arena after the Pacers moved to the fieldhouse in 1999.

The cost? $16 million, a figure that got immediate reaction from several people downtown

John Quenzer rolled his eyes and said, "$16 million? That's a high price tag."

Dan Axler agreed, "That's a lot of money but it's what it takes to get people in, I guess. People expect a whiz-bang gadget."

Stephanie Russell, who called the sum "a lot," wanted to know "who's paying?" When we told her it was the Pacers, she said, "Well, that's okay if they're paying, I guess."

It's not surprising people would ask who's picking up the tab. The Pacers have lost money every single year since the fieldhouse opened in 1999.

Asked how the team could afford the $16 million, Pacers President Jim Morris said, "We almost had no choice but to do this to keep this building competitive and to keep the fan experience exciting."

While the team had a great play-off run which helped the bottom line some, Morris said they're still in the red (though he declined to say by how much.)

In 2010 the city's Capital Improvement Board, which runs the city's sports venues and convention center, agreed to give the Pacers $30 million over three years to help cover operating expenses. The team also received $3.5 million for a couple of upgrades, including a new ribbon board.

That "supplemental" agreement ends in June, but Morris says the need for financial help will continue.

Asked if $10 million a year was enough going forward, Morris said, "Our core operating expenses are considerably more than $10 million, so $10 million is not enough, but we also understand it's tough times for everybody."

Instead of just renegotiating the operating agreement, Morris said the Pacers would prefer a whole new contract with the city, replacing the one that expires in 2019.

"We hope the agreement would be 20 years or more," he said.

The new audio visual system also includes two baseline LED video screens and two Endzone Matrix boards that can display game stats and video. Everything will be installed in time for the first game in November

While the new scoreboard is sure to generate talk, the Pacers are also banking on it to generate money, by attracting more fans and more events to the fieldhouse. That's something the city would like to see as well.

While informal talks between the CIB and Pacers have begun, Morris said they've yet to begin any hard-core negotiations.

While the CIB budget for 2013 does not include any appropriations for the Pacers, CIB President Ann Lathrop recently told Eyewitness News it doesn't have to.

"We have the authority and the ability to go back to the council later and ask for additional appropriations after the calendar year starts," said Lathrop.