... in the new issue of the IBJ which hit our mailbox today. This one is headlined "Large crowds buoying pro sports teams." One of the definitions of the word "buoy" in our little desk-top dictionary is a life-saving device. We assume that is the meaning suggested here. There were a few items which particularly interested us in the article which covered more than one whole page.
The first was something we probably should have known, but didn’t. A gentleman identified as a "sports attorney and marketer" is a member of the Capital Improvement Board (CIB). Given his profession, it would be expected that he is very enthusiastic about the professional sports emphasis in the city
Considering that the CIB is the body which shovels out the public dollar subsidies to those teams, the bare possibility of a "conflict of interest" seems to show up. Pardon our cynicism, but it sort of sounds to us like having the coach’s brother-in-law referee the basketball game!
The president of the Pacers naturally chimes in with a ringing endorsement of the over-all programs, and is quoted as saying the more sports properties in the market, the merrier.
He says, "...teams here play in state-of-the-art facilities....There’s no place like Bankers Life Fieldhouse in the NBA, Lucas Oil Stadium is spectacular...."
Then finally we get an entry from a dean at the University of Michigan who used to be a local boy writing about how professional sports are nowhere near the civic asset being claimed. We’re not sure what seems to have changed his mind.
But in the last 4 or 5 column inches of a 65 inch story, he does point out that, "...the city has been forced to subsidize the team (Pacers) to the tune of $10 (now $16) million annually...The city’s Capital Improvement Board has also had to find a way to pay for operating Lucas Oil Stadium...." He finally actually admits, in referring to sports infrastructure, that "At some point, those buildings start competing with each other."
We’re not told just how - or why - the city has been "forced" to subsidize the team. Although it is always vehemently denied, the only thing we can think of is the implicit threat of removal of the team.
We continue to believe that a private, for-profit business operating under unbelievably favorable economic conditions which cannot make a profit simply should be put out of its misery. The individual taxpayer owes it nothing.
That brings us to our final point. In this lengthy article we did not find the word "taxpayer." The "city" is forced to subsidize the Pacers. The "CIB" has to find a way to operate the football field. And nobody seems to know, or care, who paid for the palaces which are so attractive to the fans. Not relevant? Not important?
We’ve apparently found our way to a local version of the concept of government being able to produce money out of thin air. The big difference is, of course, that the feds just print what they want to spend. We don’t have that option.
So, while vital municipal function are short-changed, the public is sold a bill of goods that we’re a world class city by having that very questionable claim appear repeatedly in public print - or on TV.
Ladies and gentlemen, please accept this fact. YOU are the buoy keeping this whole concept afloat! If that does not bother you, then we would suggest that we are indeed world class. In civic apathy!