Saturday, January 31, 2009

Benner: Can't Big-Time Sports Budge During Hard Times?

You don't normally hear things like this from guys like Bill Benner, who makes his living as director of communications for the ICVA, but these aren't normal times. Reacting to the news of the CIB's financial meltdown and the pink-slipping of 25 front-office employees at the Indianapolis Colts (had anyone heard that news in the local media?), Benner asks if it isn't time for professional sports teams to share in the sacrifices of these hard times. Here's a little of what Benner had to say in his IBJ column:

But here’s where the conflict comes in, and it doesn’t pertain specifically to the Colts and Pacers, but to the overall culture of professional and major college sports: Even as the economy spirals downward, no one gives a thought to bringing some kind of fiscal sanity to the overall enterprise.

Is there anyone—commissioner, owner, executive, coach, athlete, agent—willing to be part of a shared sacrifice in these tough times? Other than eliminating lowlevel jobs, virtually nothing has been done with regard to the continued escalation of costs, salaries and the burden they place on the communities and fans.

It’s business as usual. The way some Major League Baseball teams have spent for free agents, you would think these are the best of times. We should expect no less as the NFL prepares for its offseason, and there will be plenty of second-guessing if the Colts don’t spend big to shore up weaknesses. The NBA has handcuffed itself to guaranteed contracts that make it possible for a bum like Jamal Tinsley to get $7 million from the Pacers for sitting on his duff in Atlanta (and yes, bad on the Pacers for striking that deal in the fi rst place) . . .

In the meantime, the stadium and fieldhouse aren’t going away and CIB has to deal with today’s economic realities. Despite what a Colts executive says, it’s not “ludicrous” to wish for a cooperative solution to unforeseen circumstances on an international scale.

I don't agree with Benner's last comment that the CIB's financial woes were caused by "unforeseen circumstances on an international scale." The CIB would be facing a $20 million shortfall regardless of economic circumstances because the business model created by the CIB under the lease agreement with the Colts ensures that there are inadequate revenues to pay for the stadium's operating and maintenance expenses. The CIB leaders and Mayor Bart Peterson made the decision to go ahead and build the stadium before this funding gap had been resolved, believing that creating a crisis that demanded a solution was the preferred route to getting what they wanted. It is refreshing, however, to hear someone from the ICVA crowd take the side of the taxpayers for a change. His comments are going to upset a few people used to having their way at the taxpayers' expense.


Anonymous said...

Despite what a Colts executive says, it’s not “ludicrous” to wish for a cooperative solution to unforeseen circumstances on an international scale.

That executive could make $750K or more. Maybe it is time to raise taxes on folks who make over $600K or more an extra 20%. Then we could use that money to fund the stadium. That would nail all the top paid players on our sports teams, as well as their highly paid executives and owners. Hey, we need to spread the wealth around a bit. Time for the super rich to fork over a little more of their money for their playgrounds.

Concerned Taxpayer said...

Well, gee...since this whole thing revolves around "convention business," maybe we should tell the Colts AND the Pacers to pack their bags.

The Colts only play there EIGHT days a year, anyway. The Pacers play more home games, but most of the business in the Field House is other than Pacer games.

We could just use the two buildings for "convention" business, etc.

And, no, Virginia...Indianapolis will not fold up if their precious little boys all leave town.

Downtown Indy said...

What's even more 'ludicrous' is the mindest that what the rest of the country sees as our image always outweighs how the people who live here see it. And to that end, anything is (or has been) fair game, no matter the cost.

I have never been against improving the city's image or downtown, but I have ALWAYS been opposed to doing it at the expense of those who have to live and work here 365 days a year - not simply jet in for a weekend and a football game, whether it's a superbowl or not.

And raising taxes on the higher salaries will never affect them. It will just be passed on as higher fees for whatever they are involved with.

Downtown Indy said...

And when I think about the 25 'front office' people (whomever they are) I can't help but to think about how Irsay netted over $100M in 'free money' from the stadium naming and advertising rights, and still the organization can't afford these 25 people who worked and sweated to enable and/or support his windfall!

Advance Indiana said...

Anyone notice the lack of media focus on the collapse of IRL teams and what that portends for the future of the Indianapolis 500? Would anyone dispute that the City's image has been built largely by the Speedway and not the Colts or Pacers? Could anyone dispute that the economic impact of the Speedway has been far greater than the Colts or Pacers?

Paul K. Ogden said...

Will Benner have a job come Monday morning?