Pacers, St. Vincent team up on new downtown training facility

Bankers Life Fieldhouse
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The Indiana Pacers are partnering with St Vincent on their new sports performance center proposed for downtown.

The $50 million St. Vincent Center will be built on East Delaware across from Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Plans include a training facility with two basketball courts, a weight room, hydrotherapy pools, locker rooms and medical offices on the top floor.

Larry Bird, the Pacers president of basketball operations said, "the practice facility is a state-of-the-art facility. It's just mind boggling. It probably reminds me of the first time I walked into (the Fieldhouse)."

Bird said it was key to the Pacers' future, noting that 20 other NBA teams either have or plan to build such facilities to stay competitive. 

"It's a great opportunity for us to expand and recruit free agents and bring other players in," he said.

The multi-year partnership is also important to St. Vincent. While neither St. Vincent nor the Pacers would share details of the agreement, St. Vincent gets its name on the five-story building and Pacers uniforms, starting this season.

It also provides St. Vincent a new presence downtown. The center will provide primary care, cardiovascular and sports performance services to athletes and the general public.

St. Vincent CEO Jonathan Nalli said, "it allows us to continue to invest and add services downtown...It's an investment we believe will help grow and expand...and it allows the Pacers to continue to be competitive in the work they're doing and the Fever to grow basketball in the state."

The Pacers will pay to build and operate the facility, which will go up on land owned by the city's Capital Improvement Board. It's currently a parking lot used by Pacers employees per the team's contract with the CIB. That agreement allows the team to lease the lot for $1 a year. 

Monday, the CIB indicated it would change the agreement allowing the Pacers to build there, while extending the lease to 40 years with the CIB getting the building at the end of that term.

Because the facility is being built on city-owned property, Pacers Sports & Entertainment President Rick Fuson said the expectation is PS&E won't have to pay any property taxes.

"I think at this point, our thought is due to the statutory nature of the CIB land and the fact it will ultimately be a CIB building, the statute exempts us from taxes that we don't believe we'll have to pay, but we'll continue to talk to the proper government authorities on that," Fuson said.

The Marion County Assessor estimated that taxes on a $50 million building there would be around $1.5 million a year.

The Pacers hope to break ground in three months and open in early 2017. Plans also call for an underground tunnel to connect the facility to the Fieldhouse.

The Pacers hope to pay for that by working with the city to apply for state grant for infrastructure improvements.

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Indianapolis' Capital Improvement Board (CIB) voted Monday to move forward with negotiations with the Pacers on a new five-story training center and office complex in downtown Indianapolis.

The facility would be built on the east side of Delaware Street across from Banker's Life Fieldhouse and next to the Virginia Avenue parking garage. That land is currently a raised parking lot owned by the CIB, but rented exclusively by Pacers Sports & Entertainment.

Under the proposal, the Pacers would pay the full $50 million cost to demolish the current parking structure and build the new facility, as well as all ongoing maintenance and operational costs. The new facility would only have one level of parking, so part of the proposal would be that the CIB would give the Pacers 204 spots in the Virginia Avenue garage to make up for the diminished parking availability at the Delaware Street lot (a perk worth more than $220,000 a year). The Pacers would also only have to pay $1 a year in rent on the new facility for up to 50 years. They would then give the building to the City at the end of that lease.

Because the land on which the new facility would be built is owned by the CIB, the Pacers would not have to pay property taxes on the land. What's not clear is how much, if anything, the Pacers would pay in property taxes on the facility itself. Bill Benner of the Pacers confirms that St. Vincent Health will partner in the new facility, "likely as the main tenant and in naming rights."

The team's current practice facility was built as part of the Fieldhouse 15 years ago. It's a large court below street level, where fans can sometimes watch players practice.

In recent years, 20 teams, including the Cleveland Cavaliers, have built state-of-the art training facilities and the Pacers say they need to do the same to stay competitive. Cleveland spent nearly $28 million on theirs. Besides the practice courts, it has a weight room, theater, hydrotherapy pools and on-site medical staff.

"These are elite, elite athletes. They require state-of-the-art medical and training facilities and this is an attempt to move toward that," said Bill Benner with Pacers Sports & Entertainment. "It's going to have five stories....There will be some parking on the lowest level for players and team personnel. The second and third levels will occupy the practice and training and medical facilities. The fourth level will have the Pacer offices and the fifth level will be occupied by the tenant."

Teams have said the facilities are an important recruiting tool as they're where players spend the majority of their time. Some have used the facilities to drive more revenue by selling naming rights or opening practice to fans.