“We’re going to look at taking it over to see if it makes more sense for us,” Ballard said. Potential managers include the Capital Improvement Board—which owns the arena, Lucas Oil Stadium and Indiana Convention Center and operates the latter two—or national companies that specialize in venue management.One of the reasons I find the Pacer's claim of financial losses dubious is the fact that Kansas City was able to build a $276 million arena that has no professional sports team as a tenant and is still able to operate it at no additional cost to taxpayers after paying debt obligations on it. Kansas City partnered with AEG, a private operator of public venues, to build the Sprint Arena. AEG agreed to put up $54 million in cash to help build the $276 million arena in consideration for a long-term operating agreement. Kansas City raised its hotel tax and auto rental tax to pay bond debt service on the arena, which is close to $14 million a year. Since Sprint Arena opened five years ago, AEG has shared $7 million in profits earned by the arena after hosting more than 500 events attracting 5.6 million visitors.
Ballard and the CIB continuously beat the drum that the City would be saddled with a costly facility to maintain that would sit empty most of the year if the CIB stopped subsidizing the Pacers and Simon chose to move his team to another city. As it stands, the CIB is paying not only the debt service on the Fieldhouse but also at least $10 million a year to operate it without realizing a dime's worth of revenues from it. Kansas City's budget director notes that if an anchor tenant like a professional sports team is found for Sprint Arena, the anchor tenant would take away most of the revenues the facility currently generates, and that it's actually more profitable for Kansas City and AEG not to have an anchor tenant. That's not to say Kansas City's taxpayers are getting a deal. They're still paying $14 million a year in debt service, but that cost would likely be tens of millions more annually if it were to attract an NBA team
Kansas City sold the naming rights to the arena to Sprint for 25 year for $42.5 million, or $1.7 million a year. Sprint agreed to increase its annual payments to $2.5 million a year if the City attracts an NBA or NHL franchise. By comparison, Conseco purchased the naming rights for the Fieldhouse in 1999 under a 20-year deal for $40 million. CNO agreed to continue the 20-year agreement after changing the name from Conseco to Banker's Life and picking up the rebranding costs. The Pacers pocket all the money earned from naming rights, as well as other advertising opportunities at the venue. The CIB paid $3.5 million to install a new digital scoreboard and ribbon board at the Fieldhouse, which provide more revenue-generating opportunities for the Pacers.
Pacers Sports & Entertainment CEO Jim Morris claims they've done a "superb" job running the Fieldhouse. I found it interesting that nobody even seems to know what the true operating costs are for the Fieldhouse. He insists the company he runs is not a profit-making company. "We operate it for the well-being of the community," Morris told the IBJ. Yeah, right. Morris wouldn't say whether the team would be willing to give up control of the Fieldhouse, which is quite telling. If the building is such a money loser to operate, then why does the team insist on managing it? Morris told the IBJ he wasn't even sure what the $10 million subsidy to the team represents. “I suppose something in the neighborhood of $15 million is what it costs us to operate the core expenses of this building,” Morris said. "That’s the amount the Pacers requested from CIB in 2010. But when IBJ initially asked Morris about that figure this month, he said he didn’t know its origin." “I have no idea what that number means," Morris said. The CIB told the IBJ that it believed in 2010 it cost $12 million a year to operate. In other words, they're just pulling figures straight out of their asses as usual.