Shortly after the NFL announced this afternoon that it had chosen Arlington, Texas for the site of the 2011 Super Bowl over Indianapolis and Phoenix, GOP mayoral hopeful Greg Ballard fired off a press release blaming Indianapolis' rising crime rate for the NFL owners' decision. Ballard's press release reads, in part:
While many factors were considered by team owners in determining the site of the future event, Republican Mayoral Candidate Greg Ballard believes the massive increase in Indianapolis crime tipped the scales toward Dallas. “I am disappointed, but not surprised,” said Ballard. “Indianapolis is seeing record levels of violent crime in the past year, which must certainly weigh heavy in the minds of those selecting a Super Bowl site.”
According to the most recent FBI statistics, the murder rate in Indianapolis shot up nearly 55% between 2005 and 2006. In the same period, the murder rate in Dallas decreased nearly 5%. Similarly, Indianapolis showed an increase in nearly every crime statistic- violent crime, property crime, burglary, theft, and auto theft – while Dallas showed significant decreases.
Ballard concluded, “We are building a $675 million stadium. The Colts won a Super Bowl. But we will not be hosting the Super Bowl, an event that would pump more than $260 million into our local economy, because Mayor Peterson’s lack of leadership and poor planning has led to an epidemic of crime in Indianapolis."
Personally, I think it is preposterous to think Indy's crime rate had anything to do with today's decision by the NFL owners. And I would remind Ballard that it is Arlington, Texas and not Dallas which will be hosting the 2011 Super Bowl. Dallas officials, in fact, almost refused to back Arlington's bid to host the Super Bowl at the Cowboys' new stadium because of hard feelings over Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones' decision to accept a stadium deal in Arlington instead of Dallas. The NFL owners, in a backhanded way, may have actually been doing us a big favor choosing Arlington. Perhaps this may serve as a wake up call to city leaders to get their priorities straight. You have to ask why the mayor and every major city leader have been working day and night for the past several months raising money and developing plans for an event four years off when the city is being ravaged by crime and is teetering on bankruptcy from decades of accumulated debt it has no clue how it's going to repay?
The consensus seems to be that money made the difference. The new stadium in Arlington will hold nearly 100,000 compared to the 70,000 Lucas Oil Stadium will hold. That equated to an additional $16 million off the top in ticket sales, plus the Texas stadium has far more suites than Lucas Oil Stadium. So are we already back to where we started with the RCA Dome? Remember how we were told we could never host a Super Bowl because the dome just wasn't big enough and didn't have enough luxury suites?
Let's also take another stroll down memory lane. Remember when former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue came into town to wine and dine Indiana lawmakers to convince them to approve the $675 million publicly-financed stadium for the Colts? And remember his assurances that Indianapolis would be given an opportunity to host a future Super Bowl if the new stadium was approved? Did that promise die with his departure as NFL Commissioner? As Field of Schemes observed at the time of Tagliabue's visit to the city:
If you were wondering how much it costs to buy an Indiana legislator, apparently the price is one $40 ribeye steak. The Indianapolis Star reports that when NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue breezed through town to pump for Colts stadium subsidies last week, he took in a late-night dinner at the cleverly titled Mo's - A Place for Ribs with some special guests: Colts coach Tony Dungy, city stadium booster Fred Glass, and state legislators Brian Bosma, Jeff Espich, Robert Garton, Robert Meeks and Luke Kenley. The tab for the dinner, which a Mo's owner bragged was in a "completely private" room that hosts "a lot of celebrities," was paid by the Colts. What, no movie?
To be fair, we don't know if the steaks - or even the $7.75 "Joey's 'Ol Fashion' Old Fashioneds" - actually helped buy any stadium votes from Bosma & Co. But it certainly doesn't hurt, and it's not the kind of access that average citizens are likely to avail themselves of. If you doubt this, just try ringing up your state assemblyperson and asking them out for surf 'n' turf to discuss legislation you'd like passed - say, a $700 million extension to your sun porch - and wait for
It would be interesting to hear Glass, Dungy or any of the others who met with Tagliabue to honestly relate what assurances he gave the lawmakers in attendance at that dinner about a future Super Bowl bid. One look at the long faces of Glass and Dungy today made it clear they were shocked by today's decision. I suspect if they were to be candid with us, they would concede they believe the city was double-crossed by the NFL.