Thursday, March 06, 2014

Finally, A Legislative Leader Takes A Harder Look At Turkish Businessman's Publicly-Financed Soccer Stadium

Ersal Ozdemir (Indianapolis Star/Danese Kenon Photo)
UPDATE: Ozdemir Throws In The Towel--see update below
Indiana Senate President Pro Tempore David Long is publicly expressing doubts about passing legislation this year that would require public financing of a new $87 million soccer stadium in Indianapolis sought by Ersal Ozdemir, the Turkish businessman who owns the Indy Eleven minor league professional soccer team that is yet to play its first game, and reporters at the Indianapolis Star are finally doing something more than just writing press releases for Ozdemir touting his stadium deal.
Senate President Pro Tempore David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said in a Thursday press briefing there seems to be more questions than answers about the proposed Indy Eleven soccer stadium and that it would be better handled next year, when the legislature passes a state budget.
"My take on it right now is this may be a good idea," said Long. "It doesn't seem like it's completely worked through yet. I think it would be wise for everyone to take a deep breath, step back and look at it."
The Star cites the views of an expert who cast doubts on the fantasyland revenue estimates that Ozdemir pulled straight out of his ass to sell his proposal to lawmakers:
"Our projections and analysis shows this proposal to be a win for the state and local units of government," Ozdemir said in an email to The Star. "The state will realize additional tax revenues that it does not generate or receive today."
But Ozdemir's $51 million revenue projection is "absolutely crazy," said Victor Matheson, an expert on sports economics and a professor at College of the Holy Cross.
"You're talking about a minor league soccer stadium generating as much in ticket revenue as the Indianapolis Colts," he said. "There is no way you get up to $51 million."
Doubts about the projection first surfaced when the independent Legislative Services Agency estimated the stadium would generate $2 million to $4 million a year in ticket sales — just a fraction of what Ozdemir predicted.
If LSA's projection is correct, the stadium would receive an annual subsidy of up to $445,000, or $13.4 million over 30 years, in state sales and income tax revenue.
Stadium supporters say that would still be a good deal because those sales and income taxes would come from the new sports development area and would not exist without the stadium.
But experts say that's not entirely true.
"I don't buy into that argument," said Tom Regan, graduate director of the University of South Carolina's sport and entertainment management program.
Because people have limited discretionary income, money spent on soccer tickets likely would have been spent on other entertainment options — and spending on those other options likely would have contributed to the state tax rolls, he said . . .
The Star's article also mentions that "other critics" have questioned the manner in which Ozdemir had his team of high-paid lobbyists sneak the proposal into a Senate bill in the House Ways & Means Committee, which is another name for the public auction where key lawmakers sell special tax breaks and other public give-aways to big campaign contributors. The story notes the usual suspects lobbying on Ozdemir's behalf--former GOP Chairman Murray Clark, Barnes & Thornburg's Joe Loftus and former Center Township Trustee Carl Drummer, along with a mention of the more than $100,000 in campaign contributions Ozdemir has showered on various politicians. "Ozdemir and his company, Keystone Construction, frequently win public contracts, which have included road projects and renovations at the Coliseum at the Indiana State Fairgrounds," the Star reports. Gee, I wonder why? If the FBI had chosen a year to perform an undercover sting at the Indiana State House like they've done at other state legislatures around the country to expose how the people's business in transacted there, this would have been the year to have done it.

UPDATE: The IBJ is reporting that Ozdemir is now conceding that action on his publicly-financed stadium will have to wait at least another year:
The owner of the Indy Eleven soccer franchise has conceded that his push for state financing help for a proposed 18,500-seat, $87 million stadium in Indianapolis will have to wait on the bench at least a year for another legislative session.
“We remain committed to working with legislators with an eye toward coming back next session and continuing the discussion about Indy Eleven's successful launch and its economic impact on our community and state,” team owner Ersal Ozdemir said in a statement released early Thursday afternoon.
So the continuation of American Hustle Indiana Hustle will re-open at your State House Theater next year with an expanded, full-feature film.


Charles M. Navarra said...

This news lifts my spirits. I am a realist but I will allow a small hope that this is (at long last) the beginning of serious scrutiny of the many crony insider deals and the pay-to-play schemes at the local and state levels.

Anonymous said...

Ozdemir (or whatever his real name is) will be back next year. He'll simply make Mr. Young an offer that he cannot refuse.

Flogger said...

Ozdemir, Murray Clark, Jumping Joe Loftus and Carl Drummer should build the stadium out of their own money. If that is not enough they can take out a loan with some Big Wall Street Banks.
Surely, these boys can put their own money where mouths are.

Perhaps the pot was not sweet enough for some to have this sail through.

Anonymous said...

You do realize that Ozdemir will end up taking the team to Westfield. Don't think this hasn't been discussed.