Ballard comments on Pacers situation


As we approach 2013, one thing we know for sure is that the Indiana Pacers will be here at least through next season.

The city made a deal with the team to pay $10 million to operate Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Pacers moved into the Fieldhouse in 1999.

At first, they paid to run the building, but Mayor Greg Ballard says it's no longer fair to expect the team to do that.

Eyewitness News Anchor John Stehr recently interviewed the mayor about the Pacers' situation.

John Stehr: "Here's the narrative that I think people have in their mind: We built them a building, we let them use it rent-free, we let them keep the revenue that is generated in that building all year long and now we have to give them another $10 million to pay for the upkeep and pay for the utilities. Is that still a good deal for the city and at what point does it stop?"

Mayor Ballard: "We're subsidizing the running of the building and the Pacers bring down 10,000-15,000 people 50 times a year to our downtown, so that's what they do. I could have stood on my high horse and took over the building and I can run it for $112-115 million, which was our estimate at the time and 'Pacers, you go away,' but then I don't have 10,000-15,000 people coming down 50 times a year and I've got a largely empty building, but I'm running it. Well, that's not optimal."

Stehr: "So is part of this that you don't want to be the mayor that loses the Pacers?"

Ballard: "No, I just want to make a fair deal, but I want people to understand that it takes money to run the building and the Pacers have been running the building for us."

The mayor says by operating the Fieldhouse in the early years, the Pacers provided $100 million of service to the city.

Ballard: "At that time, when we made the deal three years ago, it was cheaper for the Pacers to operate the building than it was for us to operate the building."

Stehr: "So, it's a good deal...a good deal for the city?"

Ballard: "Right now it is, but we're going to have to see if we can operate it more cheaply into the future."

The mayor also said that the city needs to look for cost savings to handle the current budget shortfall.