To get the CIB's view on all of this, Ketzenberger turns to its Vice President, Pat Early. CIB President Bob Grand is supposedly sidelined from discussions because he and his law firm represent the Simons. "It's important that the Pacers stay here, and we're committed to keeping them here," said Patrick Early, vice chairman of the CIB. "Beyond that, we have to figure out what we need to do to be a good public partner. It's all heading in the right direction." I might feel the same way as Pat Early if I got a free front-row seat to every Pacer game. I suspect it's been a very long time since Early had to purchase his own ticket to either a Pacer game or a Colts game, if in fact he ever has.
There are a lot of reasons why the Indiana Pacers are spending millions to win back fans, but the most important isn't well known.
During the next year the Pacers and the Capital Improvement Board will reconsider the team's Conseco Fieldhouse lease. It's the first chance the money-losing Pacers have to wring more revenue out of the deal.
A lousy team that fans hate means the Pacers would have no leverage in the negotiations.
That's why Pacers President Larry Bird cleaned house this summer. That's why co-owners Mel and Herb Simon may eat Jamaal Tinsley's $21 million contract. That's why Herb Simon became more active in the team's management. And that's why Simon's first task was to ask respected local business leader Jim Morris to be his top lieutenant.
We're all used to polls in this election season, so here are a couple of relevant numbers: In October 2007, 35 percent of Pacers ticket holders had an unfavorable opinion of the team. This year that's down to 15 percent.
And last year 40 percent of those fans thought the team was on the "wrong track." This year: just 12 percent.
By the way, those numbers were conjured by well-known pollster Frank Luntz, whom the Pacers hired more than a year ago to help them understand the depth of their problems.
To the general public, this talk of a sweeter lease deal could not do more than rub an already raw sore. The CIB is currently facing insolvency if a solution isn't figured out to a more than $20 million shortfall in operating revenues because of the additional costs of the Lucas Oil Stadium. A one-sided lease agreement is allowing billionaire Colts owner Jim Irsay to walk off with hundreds of millions in revenues from the stadium which rightfully should belong to the taxpaying public who paid to build the stadium. Average Joe taxpayers are in no mood to subsidize billionaire sports franchise owners more at a time they're losing their jobs and struggling to pay their mortgages. If the CIB thinks for one minute it's going to go against the public's will on this, then it better be prepared for a revolution in this town unlike the one it just witnessed last year when outsider Greg Ballard upset Bart Peterson with the help of those average Joe taxpayers.