Football fans -- and fans of basketball, marching bands and monster trucks for that matter -- can own a piece of nostalgia beginning March 10 when the innards of the doomed RCA Dome go up for online auction.
Pursuing romance will require finance. Sample prices: $450 for a pair of seats, $195 for an aisle sign, $60 to $1,000 for a chunk of turf, depending on its markings.
Memorabilia buffs can find out all about it on Colts.com, because the Dome's premier tenant is the seller. More precisely, the Indianapolis Colts Foundation and the Indiana Sports Corp., two private nonprofits, are running the sale and pocketing the proceeds.
What's that, you say? Shouldn't the landlord -- that is, the taxpaying public -- keep that pile of money, inasmuch as the public paid for the stadium and legally owns everything in it?
Good question. The short answer from John Klipsch, executive director of the Indiana Stadium and Convention Building Authority, is that the memorabilia were deemed to have no value except in association with the Colts, and the team owns the marketing rights to its image. Other stuff, such as copper wiring, is coveted as salvage by the demolition contractor and thus has served to keep his $3.5 million bid from going higher, saving taxpayers in that regard. Some Dome materials, Klipsch adds, are being recycled for use in Lucas Oil Stadium.
All of which is small consolation to a community facing severe cuts in public services along with two cost overruns so far for Lucas, whose $700 million-plus price is all tax dollars except for $100 million combined from the Colts and the National Football League. The team's owners say the higher-than-projected construction cost and $10 million annual increase in operating expense are none of their problem, just as stadium sponsorships that could surpass the $200 million mark are none of the public's to partake in.
Such is the deal the city and state have struck in return for keeping a priceless entertainment attraction in town, officials insist. Taxpayers would argue that the deal has undergone frequent interpretation, the latest example being the dismissal of the NCAA Final Four, various superstar rock concerts and countless other non-football events in the RCA Dome as sources of lucrative sentimental value.
While there's little if any choice in the matter, questioners of "Sacred Blue" are finding it more and more difficult to just get over it. Now comes a fire sale that will yield $13.5 million for the seats alone if it meets its goal. With all due respect to the good work done by the two foundations, those private entities are staking claim to a windfall profit from a public investment.
Their play should be flagged for further review.
Adding further insult to injury is the fact taxpayers are now stuck trying to figure out how to foot a $10 million minimum annual tab for maintaining and operating the new Lucas Oil Stadium because the CIB sold out taxpayer interests and gave it to Irsay rent free. And construction bonds on the new stadium are set to jump to double-digit interest rates soon because the building authority foolishly gambled in the auction bond market which melted down recently, leaving state and local government entities across the country scrambling to refinance their debt. Sooner or later, folks are going to figure out that we can't afford this new stadium or the high maintenance costs of ensuring super wealth status for Colts' owner Jim Irsay