Many may not realize how important visitors and tourism are to Central Indiana. Each year, millions attend conventions and sporting events in Indianapolis. The economic impact of these visitors exceeds $3 billion annually to the city and state.
Attracting conventions without beachfront property takes some doing. City and state leaders developed a vibrant and vital Downtown with entertainment, shopping and a cultural district anchored by the Indiana Convention Center and Circle Centre mall. Conseco Fieldhouse and Lucas Oil Stadium provide the bookends. Add our mix of restaurants and hotels and you have an energetic Downtown.
The vast amount of the economic impact is derived from the conventions and not the sports franchises. The Colts and Pacers draw mostly from the Central Indiana region. People drive to the game and drive home the same day. They don't book a hotel room and many don't spend any money downtown beyond paying for parking. The convention center draws visitors for days at a time, generating lots of business for area hotels, restaurants and retail. Early doesn't even waste his time with an estimate on the impact of the two sports franchises alone because the true numbers aren't impressive.
Early's prediction of the loss of the Pacers on local revenues is equally misleading. He writes:
If they were to leave, it would eliminate more than $8 million of direct tax revenue to this county and state and countless dollars of economic benefit to the community. Our Downtown generates more than $400 million in state and local taxes. Much of this money comes back to Marion County to fund education, poor relief and public pensions. In various ways, all citizens benefit from this.
So Early is worried about losing $8 million a year in tax revenues and his solution is to spend an additional $15 million a year to make the Pacers more profitable. Early suggests that much of this money comes back to Marion County to fund education, poor relief and public pensions. That is simply false. To begin with, much of the downtown area is within a TIF district. That means increased revenues from development are diverted to pay for public improvement bonds within the TIF district instead of being distributed to political subdivisions. Further, income taxes generated from Lucas Oil Stadium are captured to help pay for the bonds on the stadium. Food and beverage taxes, hotel taxes, car rental taxes and admission taxes go to fund the CIB and Lucas Oil Stadium. The list of mechanisms for diverting revenues generated within the mile square to fund the various improvements there goes on and on.
Once again, the CPA Pat Early states as fact that the Pacers are losing $30 million a year. Early is guilty of professional malpractice. Early does not base that claim on audited financial statements that are available for public inspection. He bases his claim solely on what the Pacers PR machine has told him. Early claims the Simons, who purchased a franchise for $11 million that is now worth $300 million, are simply trying to break even. Everyone knows this latest demand from the Simons that the CIB pick up the $15 million in operating/maintenance costs on Conseco Fieldhouse has arisen because the Simons were peeved at the generous deal the CIB signed with the Colts, requiring the CIB to pay 100% of those costs. The Simons got the exact deal they wanted 10 years ago. Like a spoiled child, they want what the other kid has.
Early's childish closing reaffirms my belief that Early's CIB leadership has been abysmal and he should be forced to resign:
I have been a member of the Capital Improvement Board for 17 years. My sole focus has always been to do what is in the best interest of this community. I've done my best to explain the big picture. It doesn't surprise me Tully doesn't get it; I didn't have any crayons.
The guy has been on the board for 17 years. The Board has been running deficits for years despite numerous tax increases and tax diversions. The Board's budget has grown to about a tenth the size of the entire city budget. The Board decided to go forward with Lucas Oil Stadium knowing that it would be tens of millions of dollars short in paying for it. We now learn that the CIB couldn't even afford Conseco Fieldhouse, let alone Lucas Oil Stadium. Early's suggestion that Tully doesn't get it because he doesn't have any crayons to explain it to him demonstrates his arrogance and disdain for those of opposing views in the face of his glaring incompetence.