. . . But what about the odds that Colts owner Jim Irsay will step up and help a struggling city that gave him everything he wanted last year?
Those odds are as bad as last season's playoff performance.
Too bad, because Irsay has a great opportunity to thank a city that raised all sorts of taxes to build him a stadium, even though the city can't afford to fix its sidewalks or fully staff its Police Department.
Here's the opportunity Irsay now has: He can help the city raise some of the cash needed to run Lucas Oil Stadium. Help is needed because, as you've surely read, the city has no money to operate the new stadium . . .
But there are also great arguments for his chipping in.
Start with the naming rights. We all knew they would bring in a bundle, but nobody predicted Irsay would get $121 million. Remember: That's for naming a publicly owned and publicly funded building.
Can't the city have a drop of the Lucas Oil gusher?
Then there's the giveaway that's come to symbolize just how sweet the deal was: The Colts keep half of the money from nonfootball stadium events. How Irsay intercepted that cash, I'll never know. But the city could really use it.
Tully's point has been the same AI has made from the beginning. The deal the city negotiated with Irsay is way too one-sided. Had the city simply negotiated a deal in line with agreements negotiated between other football franchises and their host cities we wouldn't be talking about how we're going to pay for the operating costs of the stadium right now.
What really bothers me about this discussion is that the mainstream media has taken the position that it's the state's responsibility to solve this problem for the city with a state-funded solution. That's dead wrong and dishonest. The Indianapolis Star and the Indianapolis Business Journal have both argued on their editorial pages that it's the state's problem. The Star recently editorialized:
But Kenley and other state leaders are wrong to toss off the looming shortfall as the city's problem when, after all, the state took control of the stadium as part of the financing process.
And the IBJ, just this past weekend wrote in an editorial:
We would've expected the matter of additional operating expenses to be hammered out when the stadium-funding bill was negotiated. It's hard to believe anyone from either party who claims to have not been aware of the problem. More disturbing is the idea that those at the table knew about the unfunded liability but didn't insist that a resolution be found.What is even more disturbing is the IBJ's blatant dishonesty to its readers. Sen. Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville), one of the stadium-funding bill's chief sponsors, has made it clear that he and other legislators were aware of the operating expense shortfall, and that it was made clear to the city that the regional tax being authorized to pay for the city's new football stadium could only be used for construction costs and not ongoing operating expenses. This would allow the tax to go away once the construction debt is retired. Sen. Kenley has said that he told the city he was willing to provide a county-only funding solution to the problem.
What Mayor Peterson wants is the old bait-and-switch scheme the city pulled off with the construction of the RCA Dome back in the 1980s. A "temporary tax" was enacted, the public was told, to pay for the construction costs of the new dome. When that debt was retired, the public was told the tax would go away. Of course, we now know that the tax never disappeared. Instead, the city was allowed to divert funds intended to pay only construction debt to ongoing operating expenses for the dome and convention center. That's the exact same solution Mayor Peterson is proposing for Lucas Oil Stadium. The big difference, though, is that he's expecting Marion County's neighboring counties to be responsible for the operating expenses of a stadium only Marion Co. taxpayers will own.
What AI finds disturbing is that once Mayor Peterson learned that the state wasn't going to allow him to put neighboring counties on the hook to fund the operating expenses of the stadium, he allowed construction of the new stadium to go full speed ahead without first attempting to get Colts' owner Jim Irsay to chip in more to help solve the looming long-term problem. That now allows him to say that it would be wrong for the city to go back and try to renegotiate a deal it already finalized with Irsay. Tully makes this point in his column today. He writes:
The city, however, won't ever get it. Mayor Bart Peterson certainly won't ask for it. He said it would be wrong to "turn around and say, 'The agreement I agreed to and you agreed to is too good for you.' "
The mayor is right.
Irsay got his deal and, in turn, agreed to stay in Indy. He only has to field a team. He can stand back as the city raises more taxes and cuts more services and pays for his palace.
Perhaps Tully is right and Mayor Peterson can't ask Irsay to chip in. I personally don't agree with Tully. Didn't Carmel Mayor Brainard recently go back and negotiate an agreement with the Gramercy developers after the city had already given approval to its development plan for the benefit of Carmel residents who were concerned about the density of the new housing development? While Peterson may not be able to negotiate a give-back from Irsay, another mayor certainly can. That sounds like a good reason for Indianapolis voters to find a new mayor next year--a mayor that puts the city's voters above multi-millionaire businessmen who don't even live in our city.