By Mary Milz, WTHR Citybeat reporter - bio | email
The city's Capital Improvement Board and Indiana Pacers don't have a deal yet, but the CIB's 2014 budget does include $21 million to keep the Pacers here at least for another year.
Prior to Wednesday's CIB meeting, CIB president Ann Lathrop said, "We believe that we are going to have an agreement between now and the end of the year so we felt it was very prudent to put those dollars in the budget."
The CIB included $11 million in its budget to help the Pacers offset the costs of running Banker's Life Fieldhouse and another $11 million for unspecified improvements to the venue.
"We need to keep in mind that Bankers Life Fieldhouse, in some cases, some of those components are 15 years old and others - not only when they were put into Bankers Life, they were brought over from Market Square Arena," Lathrop said.
The CIB runs Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Lucas Oil Stadium, Victory Field and the Indiana Convention Center.
While the Pacers' contract runs out in 2019, the team was able to renegotiate in 2010 because of their continuing financial losses. At the time, the CIB agreed to pay the Pacers $33.5 million over three years. Last year, it extended that contract by one year, giving the Pacers $10 million, with the intent of hammering out a "long term deal" by the middle of 2014.
Lathrop, who called the extra $21 million "a reasonable estimate" said the money will come from two reserve funds. Without those reserves the CIB would be looking at a $33 million deficit, not just because of the anticipated Pacers deal, but the money it's allocated for improvements at its other venues.
While the Pacers have rebounded, making it to the Eastern Conference finals this year, the city continues to face serious budget challenges, especially finding the money to hire more officers and address public safety needs.
Still, Lathrop said negotiating a long-term deal with the team remains a top priority.
"We want a good, long-term tenant and not only do they bring the Pacers here and the Fever, but they've done an excellent job of bringing concerts and many other events to town...and I think if they left, that would be very hard to replace," she said.
The CIB approved the budget 8-0. It now goes to the Democrat-controlled City-County Council, which was highly critical of last year's budget.
Council President Maggie Lewis, a CIB board member voted for the budget, saying she expected council support.
That's because this year, $6.2 million in new revenue from CIB hospitality taxes is earmarked for public safety.
The Pacers provided this statement from Jim Morris, president of Pacers Sports & Entertainment:
"Bankers Life Fieldhouse is one of the city's most significant public gathering spaces, and its continued success is important to our City and State. We are pleased that good conversations are going on with the CIB. We have enjoyed a very good long-term relationship with the CIB and are optimistic that it will continue."