Tuesday, July 20, 2010

If Kansas City Can Do It . . . .

Mayor Greg Ballard and the downtown elites who advocated in favor of the $33.5 million gift to billionaire Herb Simon's Indiana Pacers have continually made the claim that the CIB would be unable to pay for the upkeep and debt service on Conseco Fieldhouse if the Indiana Pacers left town. Like so many of their claims about this public subsidy, it is completely false. As I've explained previously, under the current lease agreement with the Pacers, the team gets to keep all of the revenues generated from the fieldhouse from both game and non-game events and pays zero rent on the building. The Pacers also get to keep the parking revenues from a city-owned garage, not to mention the large chunk of change they get from the naming rights on our public building. In addition, the Pacers will have to pay the City a penalty that is at least $130 million right now and declines until the end of the current long-term lease agreement in 2019.

I recently ran across some interesting statistics compiled at the Pollstar publication that rates arena venues around the world for ticket sales for concerts and other events. Kansas City has a relatively new arena it built, Sprint Arena, that hosts no professional sports team. Yet I was surprised to learn that it sells more tickets to events than all but two arenas in the United States, Madison Square Garden in New York and Phillips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia according to Pollstar's rankings as of mid-year 2010, making it the third largest ticket venue in the U.S. and the sixth largest ticket venue in the world. By comparison, Conseco Fieldhouse is way down the list at 77th among world-wide arena venues. Seattle's Key Arena, which lost its NBA Supersonics team, is much further up the list in the 53rd spot. There are venues all across America in cities smaller than Indianapolis that rank higher on the list than Indianapolis' Conseco Fieldhouse.

The problem with having a professional sports team is very obvious. The Pacers and the Fever monopolize a significant amount of days during each calendar year for their games. As a consequence, it becomes a challenge to schedule concerts and other events around the promoters' tour schedules, causing Conseco Fieldhouse to lose out on hosting many events. Even working around the home team schedules, the fieldhouse still manages to host over 100 events annually. Jim Morris, the Pacers' CEO, made it sound like all of those events would disappear if the Pacers were no longer here. Quite to the contrary, Indianapolis would be poised to generate significant new revenues if the schedule for the fieldhouse is wide open each year for hosting more concerts and other events there. And a new naming rights deal on the building could generate over $100 million for the City. Kansas City's Sprint Arena currently generates enough money to cover its operating costs and debt service. There is absolutely no reason why the same could not happen right here in Indianapolis if the Pacers decided to leave. The truth is that Indianapolis would experience a huge financial windfall if the Pacers simply left town. This is just another one of those important details Mayor Greg Ballard, the Pacers and downtown elites have completely lied to you about during this debate over giving another public subsidy to the Pacers.

One final note about those naming rights to the fieldhouse. Obviously, a company known as Conseco has now become CNO. There is some talk that CNO may no longer want to have the naming rights to the fieldhouse and certainly they don't want to continue using the Conseco name on the building. What if a new naming rights deal is being negotiated as we speak that will generate another financial windfall for the Pacers? It's something to think about. It might leave some scratching their heads and wondering why the hell the City just forked over $33.5 million to billionaire Herb Simon to prop up his NBA franchise when that money is needed for vital city services.

6 comments:

Dave said...

Gary, how do I sent you an email?
I tried the ameritech account listed under your profile but it bounced back.

Downtown Indy said...

And they list the tiny Murat as 91st for theater venues.

Curious that for the 1st half of 2010 Conseco has a paltry 79,500 ticket sales and the Murat has 25,000. Obviously Conseco is huge compared to Murat.

The highly-touted 'multi-purpose' Lucas Oil Stadium, on the otherhand, isn't even on the list.

I would bet there is very little effort into booking any other events into Conseco during basketball season and that accounts for the poor showing.

I've always been of the opinion that if the Pacers left, it would be easy to replace their scheduled dates with a lot more other events. The numbers in this article convinces me I was right.

Advance Indiana said...

Good catch, Downtown Indy. The broadway series hosted at the Murat has been hugely successful. Jersey Boys drew large crowds this past month.

Advance Indiana said...

Dave, try sending it to gwelsh@indy.rr.com.

Advance Indiana said...

As a further point on the poor sales at LOS, Downtown Indy, I would add that the ICVA, which is funded with over $10 million in taxpayers dollars each year, markets those venues but gets nothing in return for marketing events at those venues.

Downtown Indy said...

Speaking of the ICVA, last night's news had an aside about them pulling ALL their advertising for this week from other cities where they normally promote tourism to Indy. The reporter said next week was already an off week with no ads running. (I guess because its the week after the Brickyard?)

So the ICVA is 'lights-out' for two weeks while the IBE debacle cools off.

I wonder what harm this has done to local tourism biz...