Forty three years ago Indianapolis embarked on the concept of sports being the economic and cultural savior of the city when Market Square Arena opened as the home of the local basketball team. A well subsidized home, we would add. Since that time the taxpayers have paid for a second basketball court and two football fields at a total cost of nearly $1,000,000,000. One billion dollars.
Over the same period of time the city has hosted a Super Bowl game, an NBA All-Star Game and innumerable "special" events, each one producing wildly estimated economic gains for the city in the millions of dollars. A couple of weeks ago a local newspaper which has eagerly supported the ongoing municipal policy ran an editorial which labeled the city as "cash-strapped." What’s happened?
Now we’re being told of our great good fortune in being allowed to host another NBA All-Star game - in 2021. One of the stories appeared in the online edition of the same paper. Allow us to present a few quotes from that story.
From the president of the team - "Bankers Life Fieldhouse, we think, is the best basketball arena in the country and probably the world. (Our emphasis in all quotes.)
From team and league spokesman - "...there would be no modifications needed..."
From league spokesman - "...Pacers officials...made a presentation about planned improvements to the facility.
Same source - "They’re going to create more lounges, more fan-friendly areas..." (He was excited about this one.)
And finally from Pacer president - "We have a lot of things we have to do because the NBA wants us to do them."
The Capital Improvements Board (CIB), in its eternal generosity, has approved many "improvements" to the fieldhouse (mostly for fan-friendly purposes) in recent months which, we understand, are funded from the annual $16 million gift from the taxpayers.
We think it is time to be honest about the value of professional sports to Indianapolis. There is surely something wrong with the computations over the years calling for revenues in the hundreds of millions of dollars that have left us municipally "cash-strapped."
And once again, we have a mayor who, for instance, is talking about the need for increased police efforts without saying from where the needed funding would come.
Are we really living in a culture where the comfort and pleasure of a sports fan is more important than public safety?