Several IBJ readers recently asked about the economic impact of the Indiana Pacers. One wanted a comparison between the Pacers and Indianapolis Indians.
The city recently commissioned a study—done by Chicago area consultant Rob Hunden—which found that the Pacers have $55 million annual economic impact on Indianapolis.
Mayor Greg Ballard used that economic impact as justification for paying $33.5 million over the next three years for Conseco Fieldhouse operations expenses as well as $3.5 million in capital improvements.
The reason the comparison is interesting is because the Pacers and Indians bring about the same number of people downtown each year. Last year, the Pacers total attendance for 41 regular season games was 582,295.
For 72 home games, the Indians are on target to draw near 600,000 this season. Last year, the team drew about 550,000 fans to the home games despite lots of rain. In 2008, the team drew 606,166.
The other reason the comparison is interesting is because the Indians pay to play in Victory Field and pay for all the upkeep of the place to boot.
The Indians too commissioned an economic impact study—in 2007. That study—done by Strategic Marketing and Research Inc.—found that the Indians brought $28 million in spending downtown annually.
So why the disparity? . . .
Do the Indians draw as many people downtown as the Pacers and Colts? Yes. Money, though, is another kettle of fish.Schoettle then goes on to explain how ticket prices, corporate entertaining and concessions for Pacers games are considerably higher than Indians games to explain why the economic impact of the Indians is about $28 million annually versus $55 million for the Pacers. But as he notes, the Indians are paying the CIB to play at CIB and pay for all of the operating and maintenance expenses on Victory Field and still manage to turn a profit. The Pacers claim they are losing tens of millions of dollars a year despite their rent-free use of Conseco Fieldhouse and getting to keep all of the revenues for both game and non-game events, but for obvious reasons, won't open up their financial statements for public scrutiny, unlike the Indians who annually report their financial statements to shareholders. I would actually dispute the $55 million economic impact number that flawed study the CIB manufactured to promote the $33.5 million give-away to Herb Simon. It seems to me that the Indians tend to draw families, who often come from out-of-town and stay overnight in hotels and take in other downtown attractions during their visit to Indianapolis, unlike Pacer fans, who drive in and out of the games with few staying overnight or dining at restaurants downtown. It's obviously a debate in which the CIB and the downtown elites, however, don't really want to engage.
As for the value that each team brings the city, that’s another debate entirely.
I continue to dispute Herb Simon's claim that the team has been losing tens of millions of dollars a year. I believe the public has a right to be skeptical, particularly when they won't publicly disclose the franchise's financial statements. We're also not being told what Herb Simon paid this past year to buy out his late brother Mel's 50% stake in the franchise. How much is an NBA franchise that is losing so much money worth? It's entirely relevant, but the corrupt leadership of the CIB made damn sure we won't know the truth. I find it particularly telling that sister-in-law Bren Simon said of Herb Simon during her deposition over the case disputing the validity of a will her late husband supposedly executed giving her a larger share of his estate that he speaks out of both sides of his mouth. Yeah, he tells us he's losing tens of millions of dollars, while he and his wife continue to lead a very lavish lifestyle out in California. I'm sure Jim Morris has been well compensated by the Simons for pulling off yet another fraud on the taxpayers of Marion County. It wasn't enough that he convinced the City to pay double what the water company was actually worth and then walked away with an $8 million golden parachute. He had to come out of retirement to bag another haul.