To hear Kenley explain it, Irsay gave up $45 million in guaranteed revenue and put an additional $50 million of his own money on the table to give up that useless RCA Dome and move into the new Lucas Oil Stadium. What Kenley either doesn't understand or simply chose not to explain to Simpson's listeners is that the so-called $50 million investment by Irsay was actually a $50 million break-up fee he forgave the CIB if it built a new stadium for him. The folks at the CIB advocating for a new stadium deal were running around telling folks at the State House that there was a real danger of the Colts leaving the City to head to L.A. or some other city if we didn't break the old lease with Irsay, which did guarantee him minimum revenues, and build him a new stadium which guaranteed him even greater revenues. Essentially, Irsay's organization figuratively held a gun to our heads and told us that the deal the Colts made with Mayor Steve Goldsmith wasn't good enough. Either you, the CIB, break the lease and build them a new stadium, or they would break the lease and leave town, which incidentally imposed a similar break up fee against the Colts if that had happened. It takes a lot of audacity for anyone to characterize that as a $50 million contribution by Irsay.
When the CIB renegotiated a lease agreement for a new stadium, it gave up almost every revenue-generating opportunity which could be used to offset the costs of operating the new stadium to Irsay, including advertising, concessions, suite revenues and half of the non-game event revenues. Kenley acknowledged that state lawmakers knew there would be a shortfall in covering the stadium's operating and maintenance expenses when the legislature approved the state law creating a state taxing authority to pay the bond indebtedness on the new stadium, although he said the figure was pegged at $6 million at the time. The number later grew to $10 million and, as we now know, it is claimed to be $20 million. Kenley further acknowledged that the state kicked in an additional $16 million a year to help finance the deal, but remember, the public isn't subsidizing the Colts.
Kenley, a Harvard law graduate, spoke as if he understood the financials of the Colts and the Pacers. The fact is that he doesn't have a clue how much either the Pacers or the Colts are making or losing under the current arrangements. Neither team allows us to conduct an independent audit of their organizations which would allow us to make that determination and you can bet that isn't going to change. We're just suppose to take their word for it that these sports franchises really aren't good money-makers. To give you perspective on Kenley's thinking, he believes the Colts and Pacers would satisfy having some skin in this current task of dealing with the CIB's $50 million annual shortfall in operating costs if a new tax is imposed on ticket buyers to the events and a new gross receipts tax is imposed on the concessionaires. I will grant that those taxing options are preferable to a new or higher tax on the general public, but please don't insult our intelligence by calling that a contribution by the team owners. And it's an easy deal for lawmakers like Kenley to accept. Unlike you and I, he and other legislators receive free tickets to sporting events from lobbyists all the time and get invited to corporate suites, stocked with food and drink, thereby avoiding any expense at all in attending a game. If he actually knew how expensive food and drinks at the stadium are, he might not be so eager to raise the prices even higher.
Kenley seemed to suggest there was room for bargaining with the Pacers, but that too is a mischaracterization. Our trusted CIB has already agreed to pick up the tab for an additional $15 million in operating expenses for Conseco Fieldhouse, even before the team sits down to renegotiate its lease, a right the one-sided lease deal gives them after ten years. Making matters worse, people working for Mayor Ballard are spreading rumors that the team might pick up and head to Seattle if we don't give them more money. Once again, that proverbial holding of the gun to our heads has reared its ugly head. I've never had to do business with a mafia figure, but from what I've seen on TV and in the movies, doing business with sports team owners couldn't be much different.
What Kenley's interview with Simpson showed me is that this guy is completely in the tank with Irsay and the Simons. Like most of the legislators currently serving, he and his caucus have accepted significant contributions from the sports team owners and the powerful lobbying forces behind them. Money talks. Kenley demonstrates that he could give a damn less about the public's concerns. Again, this man actually argues that the team owners aren't really being subsidized by the public. He thinks it is unfair to ask Irsay to give back some of the give-away CIB officials gave him a few years ago as if that would make us bad faith negotiators. Yet, when Irsay twice demanded changes in his long-term lease on the RCA Dome, he got what he wanted both times and nobody at the table suggested he was acting in bad faith to demand changes in the deal his father negotiated when he first moved the team from Baltimore to Indianapolis more than 20 years ago.
If you, the taxpaying public, want to stop more of your taxpayer dollars from going to subsidize the lifestyles of these billionaire sports team owners, then you had better get fired up and start contacting your legislators today. As I feared, this train has already pulled out of the station without Mayor Greg Ballard ever once engaging the citizens of this community in a discussion on this topic. Instead, he has the same law firm which represents the Simon family being paid with your taxpayer dollars to work out this backroom deal with Kenley and other state lawmakers. Why do I call it a backroom deal? Because these so-called public officials didn't bother to introduce legislation straight up telling us how they wanted to raise new taxes to pay for the CIB's shortfall. Instead, they're looking for a vehicle bill on which to attach their tax-raising scheme through backroom negotiations. The public has been completely shut out of this debate. The only way you're going to have a seat at this table is if you force your way into the room. It won't be by the invitation of folks like Kenley. They've already made up their minds.