The Indiana Pacers say they are losing millions of dollars each year, far more than previously reported.
"Almost every year [Mel and Herb Simon] have owned the team, they've lost money. The cumulative losses probably approach something in the neighborhood of $200 million," said Pacers Sports and Entertainment President Jim Morris.
Morris says the team needs help. They're talking with the city's Capital Improvement Board, which operates Conseco Fieldhouse about the options, particularly who pays for maintenance of the facility. Right now the Pacers cover the cost, estimated at $15 million a year, and Morris said they can no longer afford it.
"The Pacers are not asking for help for the team. That's our responsibility to operate the team, but the team does not have the financial capacity to operate the building," Morris said.
Morris said there were at least a dozen other issues it needed to address, including the revenue the city now gets from the Virginia Avenue garage. He attributed the Pacers' financial troubles to a number of factors, including the 2004 brawl in Detroit and several off-court incidents that followed hurt attendance. While Morris said it's up about 1,500 per game this season, it still lags.
"The average gate revenue for an NBA game this year is in the neighborhood of $900,000, our average is something below $500,000," Morris said.
Morris said NBA salaries have "gone up substantially." He also said NBA revenue sharing is limited and the Pacers TV revenue has been well below the NBA average.
Even though the Pacers get all the revenue from all the other events at Conseco Fieldhouse concerts, Morris said, most events are "tightly controlled by the promoters...the margins are very, very thin and not significant in the overall operation of the enterprise."
Don't put a lot of stock in what Morris is saying. This is the same former Indianapolis Water Company executive who had a water utility to sell to the taxpayers of Indianapolis. He walked off with a $6 million golden parachute contract when the city taxpayers paid NiSource at least double what the utility was worth, while long-time water company workers had their benefits slashed to the tune of almost $50 million. You got stuck with over $800 million in debt and soaring water rates. Those poor Simons are doing so badly that they are "hoarding cash" to take advantage of opportunities in the real estate market. And don't forget that $28 million Bel-Air mansion Bren Simon got when she got tired of her Malibu mansion. Or the millions of dollars in campaign contributions Simon family members have showered on a variety of politicians.