A front page story in yesterday’s paper brought back memories of when the total, shameful municipal surrender to extortion by professional sports franchises owners began. And it was even more blatant then - in the early 1970s. Currently the blackmail is still there - just slightly more discreet.
The then owner of the Pacers made it quite clear that there were two alternatives. The team would be bought locally or be moved. We were "saved" and, with magnanimous generosity with taxpayer dollars, mayor Lugar rewarded the new owners with the building known as Market Square Arena.
Opened in 1974, it came at a cost of $23 million. The Pacers were given a sweetheart contract which included a rent increase only whenever the team made a profit. That was the beginning of the team never making a profit - 41 years ago! At least that was the assumption since our recollection is that, after a very few years, the team simply failed to file any financial report required by the contract. We know of no business which can lose money for that long a period and stay around. Of course, most companies do not have the key to the public treasury! (Currently, the Pacers have only to state that there was a loss and the CIB shovels out the tax dollars.)
In 1995, under mayor Goldsmith, that building was "renovated" to the tune of several million dollars. But that was only to be replaced in 1999 - still with Goldsmith - by the now named Bankers Life Fieldhouse, at a cost of $183 million.
Here the Pacers got an even better deal. One dollar ($1) per year rent with all basketball and non-basketball revenues to accrue to the team.
In recent years, with mayor Ballard, we have eliminated the cruel provision that expected this private, for-profit corporation to pay its own way for maintenance and operation of this palatial facility. We are now in the process of donating another $160 million for those purposes.
This new story tells us that the CIB 2016 budget includes "...$8.5 million for Bankers Life." This to "refresh" the facility in nine separate categories. One of the major items includes several seating, meeting and dining projects, all of which seem to be designed to make life even better for those selected folks who can afford the highest priced tickets. (We wonder how many of these tickets are written off against federal tax liability as some other corporation’s "business expense." A double dip?)
There is one other item in the news story which we found somewhat puzzling. In reference to the many items where expenditures could be made, the president of the CIB emphasized the word "could" and made it "...clear that none of the money has been targeted yet to any specific project." (Our emphasis.)
Without such specificity, is this a blank check to be used for projects not listed, or anything else the basketball team may wish? Considering the overwhelming generosity the CIB has demonstrated time and time again with the Pacers, one might think this approach is an open invitation for such abuse of the budgeting process. What gives, folks?
Have words like taxpayer, citizen, priority, honesty, integrity, etc., completely disappeared from municipal dictionaries? Should we mandate "None of the above" as a voting possibility on the ballot?