Tuesday, April 13, 2010

WTHR's Milz Makes Case For Pacers Subsidy

Whenever the Capital Improvement Board wants a puff piece promoting its latest effort to give more subsidies to the billionaire sports team owners, it calls up WTHR's Mary Milz, who can always be counted on to produce a favorable story for the team. Milz does just that in her latest story explaining the importance of giving a $15 million a year subsidy to the Pacers. Jim Morris tells her the Pacers are $150 million in the hole. The scoreboard needs replaced, furniture needs replaced and the entire arena needs to be wired for Wi-Fi. Morris says the Simons can't afford to put any more money into the building, even though it is required to maintain the building as part of its lease agreement with the CIB. After all, the Simons get every dollar of revenue Conseco Fieldhouse generates under its lease agreement. Morris tells Milz the Pacers aren't interested in moving to another city; however, if the money isn't forthcoming, he tells her there are plenty of other cities in North America which would like to have an NBA team.

Milz then interviews Paul Okeson, Mayor Ballard's former chief of staff who traded his city job for a high-paying job with a major city contractor, Keystone Construction. Ballard promptly appointed Okeson to the CIB. He tells Milz the City can't afford to lose the Pacers. Ergo, we must find the money to subsidize them. He tells her the City is already losing hotel revenues because of the Pacers' slump. Is that our fault? Is it our fault the team hired a bunch of thugs to play for it a few years ago who ran around town shooting off guns and generally engaging in gang-banging activities? Can they blame area residents for not purchasing expensive tickets to see their team play? I've already said it, and I will stand by it. Mayor Ballard fully intends to divert some of the money he expects the City to receive from Citizens Energy if the sale of the water and sewer utilities is carried out to pay for this new subsidy for the Simons. That's what he calls economic development. Mayor Ballard scoffed at that notion during one of his puff ball interviews with radio talk show host Abdul Hakim Shabazz this morning. We've got your number, Greg. You have lied to us so many times you don't deserve the benefit of the doubt on this one. You're only interested in getting your free courtside tickets to the Pacers games. You could give a damn less about the taxpayers who foot the bill for your excesses.

13 comments:

Downtown Indy said...

Be fair, Gary. Mr. Morris clearly stated not one penny wold go to the Pacers. It's all for the upkeep of the facility. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

I would love to ask Morris how Herb Simon 'can't afford' to put any more money in - with him being a billionare. Heck David Simon just got 34.7% pay hike the other day, with a $3 million bonus. So they have money to toss around inside the company, in addition to what they each have individually.

Martin said...

It's time to (re)negotiate the Naming Rights for the Indiana Fieldhouse!

Conseco wants to change it's name to CNO.

Make them or someone else, like Forrest Lucas, pay up for the improvements needed.

Lucas Oil Fieldhouse, anyone???

Paul K. Ogden said...

Okeson actually said the city has lost revenue because the Pacers aren't doing well?

Who does he think he's fooling? How many Pacers fan come to Indianapolis for games and stay overnight in a hotel.

I've been out of town in Chicago for an oral argument in front of the 7th Circuit. Looks like I missed a lot.

Downtown Indy said...

"Well, Boss, it's like this: I've not been doing so well in my job the past several years, but I want a new TV, a new car, and I need to hire some folks to fix up my house and modernize it a bit. So, I guess you'll just need to pay me more than what my salary is set at. Otherwise, I won't be able to do these things and I just might take a higher-paying job in another city. Now, you don't want me to do that, do you? Did I mention I'm a chronic underachiever? So call down to payroll and have them write me a check. Thanks old man."

Had Enough Indy? said...

Maybe the nights the Pacers aren't playing, we can use the Fieldhouse for a homeless shelter. Then, at least, we could be tackling issues that affect how good or poor a place Indy is to live in. Sure is nice to visit, though....

Indy Student said...

Wi-Fi access? For what?

I just looked through Conseco's list of events on their website. They're all concerts, speaking events, or a performance of some type. Not exactly something you bring your laptop to.

Sean Shepard said...

@Indy Student

While I would personally maintain that private business interests should be paying their own way and not leveraging the taxing mechanisms of government to subsidize money losing ventures like sports franchises ...

... there are lots of devices other than laptops these days that can take advantage of a wi-fi signal. I think there is probably a tremendous opportunity for venues like CF or LOS to roll out wi-fi based score or statistic tracking onto wi-fi enabled devices, replay video and all kinds of interesting things. OR even to run wi-fi enabled contests or promotions to attendees. Lots of possibilities.

They also have business and trade show events at venues like these from time to time and can see where wi-fi would be something others might just expect to be there.

Sean Shepard said...

I thought we've been told this whole time that the Pacers had never asked for that $15 million ... what is this "we've been having conversations for two years" quote then? I suppose they might not have specifically asked for the $15 million; but, then what are the discussions over? Further taxpayer subsidies for an industry that has allowed its costs to get out of control and it's appeal to potential customers to dwindle?

Are the Pacers "too big to fail (let leave)?" ... If Lilly was falling on hard times would citizens tolerate being taxed to support them because they employ so many people and do so much good in the community? Of course not!

Excerpt Below From http://www.fieldofschemes.com/news/archives/2010/04/4116_pacers_threaten.html

On Tuesday, Pacers Sports & Entertainment President Jim Morris said if a deal isn't inked by June 30, Simon would have to start searching for other solutions, and nothing would be off the table.
"We've been having conversations with the Ballard administration for two years," Morris said, "and we're now at the point where we need to wrap this up in the next 30, 40 days."

Downtown Indy said...

I.S., Perhaps it's for the 3G cellphones, so all those folks can Twitter about how they just got some nachos delivered to their club seat by a 'hawt' waitress (while taking a break from 'talking smack' on the IndyStar live game chat site).

The NCAA already does, and it's probably a matter of time before the NBA does too, order venue Wi-Fi shut off because they charge the media to use their wired internet access.

Yep, the NCAA has a fee (I think it's $350 per photojournalist, $12 for sportswriters) to access the internet and send their photos/stories off for publishing.

Indy Student said...

Sean,
A few years ago, there was talk about a municipal wireless network. Various cities throughout the US and world, including our nearby Anderson, IN, have wireless available free throughout the city. Other cities have them at a small rate.

Now THAT is something I can get behind. Especially since wireless access outside of libraries and IUPUI is fairly spotty, at best.

DI, really? My Blackberry just uses the cell phone signal. Meh, go figure.

Sean Shepard said...

IndyStudent ... thinking critically about this leads one to ask:

why should taxpayers pay for wireless Internet access or infrastructure? How is it some kind of "right"? Does wi-fi take precedence over free cell phone? free land lines? free electricity? free food? free water?

I know some cities set this up and provide it; but, honestly it is something best left to private industry. Of course, I remember when we had to trudge for two miles through snow in the dark uphill at night to get to ... the Internet. ;-)

Downtown Indy said...

I don't think it's at all critical to have total WiFi coverage for a city, particularly as a city-provided 'utility.'

Maybe having grown up in the era before answering machines has skewed my thinking, but I find it's not at all difficult to go minutes or even hours without an electronic link to the InterWebs.

We don't need the city paying for it, not even if the Pacers Sports and Entertainment Group thinks it is an urgent perk for Conseco Fieldhouse. If someone's life is so busy they 'need' WiFi at a basketball game, maybe they just need to skip the game.

Marycatherine Barton said...

We the people do deserve to have Milz and Shabazz ask Ballard HARD questions. Thank you, AA, for telling him, and them, off.