The Indiana Pacers' financial performance has plummeted over the past two years, which might spur the franchise to attempt to renegotiate its lease for Conseco Fieldhouse, sports-business experts say.
Asked whether the team intends to do that, Pacers President Donnie Walsh said: "If I was going to approach [city officials] about a new deal, I'd tell them before I told you" . . .
Mayor Bart Peterson said the city and Pacers have had on-and-off discussions over the years about "tweaking the Pacers' Conseco financial lease. But he said they've had no recent discussion about major changes.
City officials would not be eager to rework the deal, said Fred Glass, president of the Capital Improvement Board, the quasi-governmental body that owns Conseco Fieldhouse.
"These deals are done for a reason," Glass said. "We have a 20-year deal, and negotiations can only be reopened under certain conditions."
However, one of those conditions could be met this year. The lease states that if the Pacers experience "significant net cash flow loss for any NBA season in or after the eighth year of the initial (20-year) term," the team the next year could begin the process of seeking early termination of its lease.
Because the upcoming season is the Pacers' eighth in Conseco Fieldhouse . . . that provision could open the door to renegotiation as early as next year . . .
Essentially, Schoette is telling us that the city negotiated a lease with the Pacers that allows them to sign multi-million-dollar contracts with gun-packing hooligans who can't behave on or off the court, which in turn results in the fans getting turned off and not attending their games, causing their revenues to drop, then the billionaire Simons can tell the city to give us more public subsidies or we're going to terminate our lease and take our team elsewhere. And that's exactly what is happening. Schoette reports that last season's attendance was already off by 12% from the inaugural season high in 1999-2000.
A part of the IBJ story that is particularly irksome, is the reported resentment the Simons have towards Irsay over the deal the city gave him for Lucas Oil stadium. "Pacers executives won't discuss the Colts' Lucas Oil Stadium lease, but sources close to the team say the executives are irked by the deal and think theirs pales in comparison," Schoette writes. The deal the Simons are now complaining about allows the Pacers to keep all basketball and non-basketball revenue at Conseco Fieldhouse, "still vaunted as one of the nation's top NBA venues," Schoette notes. He notes that the Pacers are required to pay the operating costs and $3.45 million annually for certain parking privileges, unlike the Colts. Although the Pacers kicked in $57 million for the initial $183 million construction price tag for Conseco Fieldhouse, they're getting to pocket tens of millions from the sale of the naming rights to Conseco.
Sorry guys, but your timing couldn't be worse. This now explains why the team launched its recent advertising campaign trying to soften us up by telling us, "It's about the fans." No, it's about putting more money in the pockets of the Simons, who are in a shameless competition with Jim Irsay to win the title of largest public welfare recipient in the State of Indiana. The Pacers wisely pulled its ads after four of its players wound up in a 3:00 a.m. shootout at Club Rio strip club yesterday, which left Stephen Jackson injured. Pacers Coach Rick Carlisle a few days ago described Jackson as being the "most important leader" on the team. If you can't deliver better to the fans, then adios. Find another town to play in and spare the taxpayers here from the burden of supporting your "rich and famous" lifestyles.