Saturday, October 07, 2006

Irsay To Indy: Pay Up And Shut Up

Indiana's biggest public welfare recipient, Colts' owner Jim Irsay, lets it be known that he's not about to give up any amount of the hundreds of millions in public subsidies city officials foolishly gave away to him in its bid to win a long-term deal by constructing a new stadium for his team. The Star's Tim Evans reports:

A deal's a deal, and so no one should expect Colts owner Jim Irsay to help close a $10 million shortfall in funding day-to-day operations at the new stadium being built for his team.

That's what Irsay and city officials said Friday about the contract that will keep the team in Indianapolis for 30 more years in exchange for providing the team a state-of-the-art home in Lucas Oil Stadium.

Irsay said he doesn't expect to be asked to help cover the financing gap -- and city officials said they don't expect Irsay to come to them seeking financial concessions in the future.

"We went forward in good faith and tried to get something done, and did get something done for 30 years," Irsay said during a meeting with Indianapolis Star editors and reporters. "I'm living with the agreement we made, and I expect the other side to -- and they have."

The man who is largely responsible for negotiating the one-sided deal with Irsay, is competely sympathetic with Irsay and unapologetic to the working men and women of Indianapolis who will be forced to dig into their pockets deeper to pay for a major budget shortfall anticipated in maintaining Irsay's $675 million stadium. The stadium really does belong to the taxpayers, to be sure, but because city officials let him keep the more than $100 million generated from the naming rights purchased by Lucas Oil and half the non-game event revenues, it is his stadium for all intents and purposes. Fred Glass, who chairs the Capital Improvement Board of Managers tells the Star:

The city has a very good deal," said Glass. "It was an intricately negotiated deal. I would not expect us to try to go back and rework the deal."

Glass said a key component of the agreement is that it locks in the Colts.

"We aggressively negotiated for no openers, no opportunities for the Colts to reopen the deal," he explained. "That is one of the cornerstone values of the agreement. They are locked in -- lock, stock and barrel -- for 30 years without any opportunity to reopen the agreement." Glass added he is confident city and state officials will find the money without turning to the Colts.

That's Glass' way of saying the public will have to add a few more million to Irsay's largesse. Adding further insult to injury, Irsay has the audacity to complain of double standards:

Irsay said he thinks there has been a double standard in how the public and the media view the Colts and the Indiana Pacers. He noted that Conseco Fieldhouse, where the Pacers play, was built entirely with public funds, while the Colts and NFL are kicking in $100 million on the stadium project.

"We're in a free-enterprise system, we're in a capitalistic system, and public-private partnerships are only done -- not because Jim Irsay is a good guy or because Jim Irsay needs the money. . . . The only reason people engage in them is it is good for the city and state and . . . it is good for the team."

A lot of folks around town thinks there's a double standard when an investigation involving Mr. Irsay and prescription drug fraud uncovered by WTHR-TV got swept under the rug by local federal investigators while average-day folks get sent to prison for similar crimes. Perhaps local prosecutors should re-open that investigation to provide Irsay an incentive to come back to the negotiating table. No, hold on. That would be extortion. No, wait. That would be applying the laws equally to Irsay as they are applied to all the rest of us.


Anonymous said...

Bart Simpleton gave away the store, when all he had to do was call Irsay's bluff. Irsay was not going to be able to move that team unless he sold it, and his ego won't let him sell it. No city wants the Colts if Irsay is part of the deal.

But as long as the dolts that get elected keep believing that they can dazzle the public with shiny new objects; stadiums, arenas, luxury hotels and the like, they will continue to do so.

Because actually making tough decisions is beyond their capabilities, because it does not benefit them to focus on long-term, workable solutions. They would rather moan and groan about the difficulty of solving each problem.

The idea that Indianapolis is or will be a world class city because of sports team is incredibly ludicrous. But, unfortunately they really believe it.

Anonymous said...

I went to school with Fred Glass. He's an honest, stand up guy and a hard worker. But he got took, and the city got took with him. The first guy who blinked on this deal lost the farm, and Fred blinked. The result is the loss to the city of revenue that should be paying off the debt. Now we're boned for 30 years, and Jimmy is laughing his ass off.

Meanwhile, you and me and all of the little people still owe $75 million on the $77 million debt for the RCA dome that's about to be knocked down. And the real truth is that, as Indy raises tourism taxes on hotels, car rentals and eats, as though tourists are some cash-soaked herd of cash cows that will never get fed up, it makes the City more expensive for convention groups. It's like tobacco taxes - you tax what you want to discourage, and the higher the rate, the more punitive it becomes, until conventions just take their business to a cheaper venue.

Sorry, Fred. You blew it.

Oh yeah, but we'll still have the Colts for 30 years.

Go Colts, go! And take the Pacers with you.