Sunday, March 29, 2009

Star Whitewashes Pacers' Cancun Trip For Indy Elites

Last week, fellow blogger Ruth Holladay broke a story about the Indiana Pacers sponsoring an all-expense paid trip to an exclusive resort in Cancun, Mexico for more than 60 of its corporate sponsors. According to Holladay's report, several news media organizations, including the Indianapolis Star, participated in the trip where free alcohol flowed and gifts of jewelry and watches were given to the guests. The Star, without disclosing who participated in the trip from its organization, tucks this item away in its "Behind Closed Doors Column" to whitewash over the Pacers spending bucco bucks entertaining Indy's corporate elite while the Pacer owners', Herb and Mel Simon, whine about how much money they are losing:

Local blogs were agog last week about a trip the financially strapped Indiana Pacers hosted for sponsors to Cancun, Mexico, recently.

The blogs reported the Pacers took 60 people on a five-day trip to an exclusive oceanside resort.

These bloggers, however, had it only half right.

They were outraged that the Pacers would pay for such largess while the team is asking the CIB to take over the $15 million cost of running Conseco Fieldhouse each year.

But as Greg Schenkel, vice president of corporate and public relations for the Pacers, pointed out, the annual trip is a part of the sponsorship contracts the team has with various companies, including The Indianapolis Star.

So the trip's costs are covered by the sponsorship dollars, he said.

Schenkel would not release a list of who went on the trip, but he did say no one from the CIB or the city or state government went.

They're knocking the blogs for reporting the trip in the first instance? And they think this is responsible journalistic reporting? As usual, the Star doesn't disclose its own sweet-heart, $2-$3 million loan to the CIB to pay for Conseco Fieldhouse, which the newspaper is now being asked to forgive, or the fact that it got that money it loaned to the CIB from the Circle Centre Mall in which it invested and which is run by the Simons. Like Conseco Fieldhouse, the Simons pay no rent to operate Circle Centre Mall. You pay for it; they pocket the profits. I don't know how much poking around the Star did on this subject, but increasingly in the business world such trips are being banned because of the potential for conflicts of interest with the employees handling the account. At least one Gannett employee has told me that this trip clashed with the company's stated policy. Oh well, don't expect to learn the full story on this one from the Star. If the newspaper really wanted the list of attendees, couldn't it have asked its own employee who participated in the trip for that information? And the blogger the Star took a dig at without naming in the column for supposedly only getting the story half right? Ruth Holladay is a former, long-time columnist for the paper.

At least one honest person remains on the Star reporting staff. Star political columnist Matt Tully remains unfazed from the harsh attacks he came under from the elites after he criticized the Pacers for seeking $15 million a year more from the CIB to operate Conseco Fieldhouse. He offers some straight talk in his column today, including the dispelling of the notion that dire consequences will occur if the Pacers leave town. Meanwhile, the Star editorial staff thinks there should be a state-funded bailout of the CIB and taxpayers outside Marion County should help pay for it.


Unigov said...

The Star again today calls for a bailout.

As for the posh trip, that would be declarable income to the participants, no ?

Downtown Indy said...

So the Star establishes it is in favor of rigidly adhering to contracts.

I infer from that they are rigidly in favor of the Pacers continuing to pay their $15M contractual obligation.

Hoosier in the Heartland said...

That comment in today's Star was even more tone deaf than the car companies' CEOs flying to Washington in their private jets to beg for bailouts.

I say, throw the bums out. Who needs the Pacers, or the Colts for that matter? If there aren't sufficient ticket sales, obviously there's insufficient support for the teams.

Let's focus on culture and the arts rather than idiotic "games".

Jon said...

So much for fair and honest reporting. The Star continues to push for more tax dollars to prop up sport's billionaires while failing to disclose their own vested interests. Just more of the same old same old, we need (fill in the appropriate sports team) because they prove our worth as a city, they infuse the local economy with 'millions of dollars' etc, etc. They continue to print 'puff' pieces about the worth of amateur and pro sports as being the economic salvation of the our city.

The sad reality is that we as a city are saddled with a huge debt for sport arenas and stadiums that we can't afford to maintain nor pay off the bonds. We'd be better off dissolving the CIB via bankruptcy then to continue to throw more tax dollars into a bottomless pit.

Wasn't it just a little while ago we were told we only need to add a penny more to the restaurant and add a little to hotel taxes and car rentals to pay for LOS? We are now building the convention center which will cost another 250 million in tax dollars, will it have cost overruns, what it additional maintenance costs as well?

How many years has the CIB been in the red and why did we just find out that fact?

We can't trust the media, we can't trust the owners and we can't trust the agency that builds the facilities so it makes perfect sense to funnel some more money to the CIB. On wait a minute, none of this makes sense unless you're a beneficiary of this largesse.