The Indiana Pacers aren’t going anywhere—not after agreeing to a 10-year extension that will help the team remain financially competitive in what is one of smallest markets in the league.
The deal is certainly a victory for the Pacers, who just one day prior clinched the NBA’s Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed by beating the Oklahoma City 102-97.
While critics will have plenty to say about the deal, it’s hard to argue that having a major sports franchise is a bad thing for the city.
According to Drew Klacik, a senior policy analyst who oversaw a study conducted by the Indiana University Public Policy Institute, the deal will result in an influx of over $200 million in economic activity to the downtown Indianapolis area. But at what cost to the city?
Under the terms of the agreement, the Capital Improvement Board will cover approximately $164 million in operating costs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse over the next decade. In exchange, the Pacers agree to remain in Indianapolis for as many as 13 more seasons. The CIB board voted 8-0 vote in favor of the deal.
Critics argue the deal comes at too great a cost, and that funds used to keep the team would be better spent funding such things as road repairs and a reportedly understaffed police department.
But Mayor Greg Ballard responded by pointing out that the money collected from downtown sales taxes, rental fees, parking garage income, car rental taxes and even cigarette taxes cannot by law be applied toward these things. “I understand that some people question investments like this at a time when other budgets are strained. I want those people to know that funding for this agreement cannot by law be used for other things like police and potholes. It is money generated from Downtown visitors and ticket holders solely to support our Downtown sports and convention facilities,” he said.
While $160 million is a lot to pay, the reality is that the Pacers, like the Colts, have become a part of the downtown tapestry, and a significant source of civic pride. To have even one major sports franchise is, let alone 2, or more, is something many cities would die for.
In a sense, each televised game is like an advertisement for the city, in virtue of the team’s association with the city. But Pacers aside, there is the fact that Bankers Life Fieldhouse hosts as many as 500 different events throughout the year, from concerts to other sports championships.
Strip a city one-by-one of its various attractions, and what’s left? Re-signing the Pacers to this extension was a deal that had to get done, not only for the city, but for the Pacers to remain competitive. Fait accompli.