Monday, August 22, 2011

Georgia Street Project Includes Heated Street And Sidewalks

Artist's rendering of finished Georgia Street project for Super Bowl
Fellow blogger Pat Andrews continues her excellent coverage of the outrageous public expenditures that are being made at the behest of the local Super Bowl Committee to make the billionaire owners of the NFL satisfied with the accommodations provided during next February's Super Bowl event since the $750 million stadium with a retractable roof financed by higher taxes simply doesn't cut it for these demanding team owners. We learned soon after the City won the bid that it would have to find money to build a new enclosed practice field for one of the teams because other enclosed facilities already available in the Indianapolis area didn't meet NFL standards. Then we learned that more than $12 million would be spent renovating Georgia Street to transform it from a functioning city street to a pedestrian-friendly village with outdoor cafe dining and a boardwalk. As WTHR described it:
The Super Bowl Village will feature café dining on the sidewalks and a boardwalk in the center of the street. It will be designed as a free, festive atmosphere where fans without a game ticket can mingle outside in the afternoon and evening, get a drink, huddle in warm zones with heaters and enjoy concerts.
"We are not shying away from the weather. We're going to have fun with it. There are different things we can do outside to keep the fans warm and happy," said Baughman.
"The village is really going to be the front door to the NFL experience in the convention center and Conseco Fieldhouse, which will also host events," said William Browne, the Founding Principal and President of Ratio Architects. "This becomes the street fair, if you will, the activity spot to radiate out from downtown for the many events that will take place during the Super Bowl."
It didn't make sense at the time to describe those sort of amenities for Georgia Street given Indianapolis' cold winter weather. Despite Baughman's claim that the project would not involve "shying away from weather," it turns out that's not quite the case. Andrews learned that one of the amenities being offered with the three new blocks of Georgia Street will be heated streets and sidewalks. After all, we can't allow the Super Bowl visitors' feet to get cold walking on the freezing surface temperatures of our streets and sidewalks now, can we? Andrews picked up this bit of information from the designs the Super Bowl committee had prepared for the redesign of Georgia Street to meet the NFL's requirements, after which it signed a contract with the Department of Public Works to get reimbursed for more than $1.6 million it incurred for the design plans. Andrews blogs:

One of the more interesting, some might say frivolous, design changes noted in the initial round of contracts, subsequently taken over by DPW to pay, was to heat Georgia Street. Yes, the street and sidewalks will be heated from underneath with forced steam pipes. The cost estimate was another $1 million. Now, just how useful will that be beyond the Superbowl??? Come on. This clearly is a case of what sorts of things you spend money on, when you are spending someone else's money. Its just like the retractable roof on Lucas Oil Stadium, that rarely is retracted when the sun shines, but I hear, often leaks when it rains.

A question that remains to be determined is whether businesses along Georgia Street that have been negatively impacted by the construction work over the past year will be able to hang on until the Super Bowl. Earlier this year, the Pub complained to WTHR that its business had fallen 40% due to the construction work. Nordstrom closed its doors at the end of July as the major anchor for Circle Centre Mall, leaving vast space on three floors of the the mall completely unoccupied.

If that isn't enough to get you upset, check out these numbers. WTHR's Mary Milz reports that the CIB will spend at least $8 million in taxpayer money on the Super Bowl:

The game is 167 days away and Eyewitness News has found out at least $8 million in tax money is needed. Most of the money budgeted by the Capital Improvement Board, which runs both the convention center and Lucas Oil Stadium, will go to public safety.
North Texas spent millions on police and fire protection during Super Bowl XLV in February. Indianapolis expects to spend $4 million alone in overtime when it hosts the Super Bowl in February. The money won't come from the public safety budget, however. It will come from the Capital Improvement Board.
"I think, in general, we get the hospitality taxes that are going to be coming in due to the event," said CIB president Ann Lathrop. "Given the significant, one time only impact this is going to have, we think it is the right thing to do as good corporate citizens."

Keep in mind this was the same CIB that claimed it was teetering on bankruptcy just a couple of years ago unless we bailed it out with a series of tax increases and a new state subsidy. Now the CIB is so cash rich that it has $33.5 million to give away to the Simon's Indiana Pacers and another $8 million to foot the bill for Super Bowl-related expenses. I will flat out claim and defend such claim until proven otherwise that Ann Lathrop and Bob Grand totally fabricated a financial crisis after they took over the CIB following Mayor Ballard's election in order to find money for the Simon's new public subsidies for their NBA basketball team and to finance the Super Bowl costs, the event that we were told would cost taxpayers nothing because all of the funds necessary to cover the expenses would be paid by contributions raised by the local host committee. There have been reports that the CIB is letting the NFL use space at the convention center during the Super Bowl free of charge. Further, the legislature passed an unprecedented tax exemption that covers the Super Bowl event so that the NFL doesn't have to pay any state or local taxes during the event.

No, Ann Lathrop, we will never recoup the losses from this event. And the claim that the Super Bowl will generate $450 million for the local economy repeatedly touted in local news media reports is complete and utter BS. No independent study of the Super Bowl has ever proven that it generates anything approaching that kind of economic impact. Independent analysts peg the economic impact at no more than $40 to $50 million at best. As for added tax benefits, look at how little sales tax revenues grew in the Arlington, Texas communities that hosted this year's Super Bowl. Look no further than Detroit for the definitive proof of just how little benefit the Super Bowl generates for the city at large. How stupid do they think people are? It is simply unconscionable to be spending tens of millions of dollars to put on a party for the nation's richest people while the common people are sinking by the day under the pressure of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. At the rate things are going, they're going to need a small army to simply keep out angry, rioting taxpayers who will share in none of the benefits of this party and who are struggling to find jobs and to put food on the table for their families.

UPDATE: The CIB approved its budget yesterday, which naturally calls for an increase in its operating budget of $4.4 million to $77.5 million unlike virtually every other city-county agency next year that is facing cuts or a flat-lined budget. The CIB was asked about the annual $10 million subsidy payment to the Pacers that is suppose to be needed to defray maintenance costs on Conseco Fieldhouse in light of the fact that the NBA currently has a player lockout with the failure to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement and may play a shortened season or no season at all this coming year. Of course, the biggest expense of operating an NBA team are the salaries of players, which the owners don't pay while a lockout is still in progress. The Pacers pay nothing to lease Conseco Fieldhouse and get to keep most of the revenues the facility generates from both game and non-game events. Here's the reaction of Ann Lathrop, who is nothing more than a stooge for Bob Grand, whose law firm represents the Simon family interests, including the Indiana Pacers:

"The building doesn't go away," Lathrop said. "Those expenses will stay there. It's our building, and we have an obligation to keep it running."
She did not know how much it costs to operate the building during Pacers' home games.

Did you catch that? She doesn't know how much it costs to operate the Fieldhouse during Pacers' home games. This is one of the same CIB leaders, an executive for a major accounting firm no less, who swore up and down she had seen the Pacers' financial statements and could confirm the team was losing money. It was on the basis of that review of the team's financial situation that Lathrop and other members of the CIB voted to approve the three year, $33.5 million gift to the franchise to help defray the costs of running Conseco Fieldhouse. Lathrop, in effect, just admitted that she doesn't even know what it costs to maintain the Fieldhouse. She never cared because she is financially rewarded for doing what the power brokers in this town order her to do. It means more lucrative government consulting work for her employer, Crowe Horwath. Yes, those billables do impact the amount of money Lathrop earns at the firm. As always, there is absolutely nobody on the CIB who represents taxpayers.


Downtown Indy said...

Of course we used to have heated sidewalks in some places downtown many years ago. I recall the Circle and (I think) Washington St fascinating me as a kid by being snow-free, wet and steaming when Mom took us in tow for the big bargain day sales.

I have no idea if any of the old heating systems still exist.

The real crockery is that it is purported to be a million-dollar job to accomplish this over a 3 block area.

Taxpayers are again being screwed.

Gary R. Welsh said...

If you find a sidewalk that is heated downtown, it is because the owner of the building paid for it. Baker & Daniels has heated their sidewalks and the owner of the Chamber of Commerce Building next to the B&D building replaced the sidewalk in front of its building in order to heat it a couple of years ago. They choose to do this as a convenience to their tenants, clients and guests and to avoid having to have someone shovel snow and spread salt in the winter time.

Had Enough Indy? said...

Index this blog entry, Gary. Sure as the sun shines today, the CIB will be at the City-County Council this spring, begging for an increase in the admissions tax and car rental tax - the last two taxes that can be raised as part of the CIB bailout that began a couple of years ago.

Concerned Taxpayer said...

Thank God our hard-earned tax dollars at least go to a great cause!! /s off

I guess that means at least two blocks in the city won't have to be plowed anymore!

heritagephoto said...

We will also permanently lose the name "Georgia Street" if people don't speak up! Leave the name "Georgia Street" as is! It has worked for 190 years and is part of Alexander Ralston's original plat for the City of Indianapolis. Join the protest:

1. Take the renaming survey by Sept. 19 (one question: write in "Georgia Street"):
2. Join the Facebook page:
3. email these folks a short note requesting them to keep Georgia:,,,
4. Make some noise!