Pacers owner demands “a lot of money” for renovations, because he has everything else already

So what do you get for the sports team owner who already got a free $183 million arena, $33 million in operating subsidies, another $160 million in operating subsidies when those ran out, a free $3.5 million roof repair, free land for a a free $50 million practice facility, and a free $2 million tunnel to connect the free practice facility with the new arena? How about a “major” renovation of your now 18-year-old arena:

“For me to sign a long-term lease, which is what I really want to do for the city, we’re going to have to plan it for the 21st century,” [Indiana Pacers owner Herb Simon] said. “Things have changed. People’s viewing habits are different with more social environments. It takes a major redo because the bones are great and we want to keep it here. We love the feel that people get, but we want to enhance the fan experience and keep us current. That’s going to take a lot of money.”

That’s not quite a move threat, you’ll notice, but it is at least a glancing non-threat threat, since Simon is saying he won’t sign a long-term lease once his current one expires in 2024 unless he gets these “major” arena renovations. (If you’re wondering why the Pacers will be on their third lease renewal just 25 years after moving into a new arena, blame Stephen Goldsmith.) He also cleverly didn’t say how much money the renovations would cost beyond “a lot,” or how much of that he’d be requesting Indiana to pay for, though “a lot” seems like a fair bet there as well.

Given that the Pacers are already up around $430 million $380 million in subsidies for an arena that cost less than $200 million to build, getting even more public money for upgrades would easily push them into “sweetheartest arena deal in history” territory. I would say that the local government’s appetite for subsidies has to wear thin someday, but this is Indiana, so apparently not. At least the city of Indianapolis didn’t have to cut funding for arts programs and close public pools to pay for all this — oh wait, never mind.

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12 comments on “Pacers owner demands “a lot of money” for renovations, because he has everything else already

  1. I can see the Pacers latest request rejected unless a new arena for basketball and Hockey comes with it. But hey, the Indianapolis fans will be cheering for the Flames, Colts, and Pacers.

  2. It is a pro sports team owner’s job to extract as much free cash from the public as possible. Any owner that fails at this is either not trying very hard or lives some place where the pols can’t be bought. Pity, that.

  3. Amateurs!
    This some kind of joke? I wouldn’t walk across the street for $430m in taxpayer cash…

    Call me when Simon has made them invent holographic displays for him and maybe I’ll be willing to pay attention.

  4. This is ridiculous. I’ve been to Bankers Life Fieldhouse on several occasions. The arena is gorgeous and the layout is spectacular. In fact, it’s still the envy of the league. This man is trying to bleed the public even more. Then again, when you have politicians that rival Nevada’s in terms of complete ineptitude this is what you get. Simon is like the spoiled rich kid who’s never been told no his entire life until his teenage years; then threatens to lash out at his parents for having the audacity to use the word.

    1. I definitely believe Sacramento is very high up in the list of inept cities.

      22 events scheduled between now and October 25.

      They’ll never get to 189 events per year that way.

  5. I don’t want to necessarily be the guy that defends a millionaire owner and sports team but a couple of clarifications/questions. First, I thought the practice facility was built by the Pacers. Second, the Pacers manage BLF so the $33 million includes some O&M costs including paying the Pacers for that service. The original deal was better where the Pacers agreed to operate BLF for the CIB and the costs were split.

    The tunnel was a ridiculous subsidy. However, for the most part BLF is used extensively and drives a lot of tourists and commerce to downtown Indy. Lucas Oil Stadium – on the other hand – is funded differently, used far less and the subsidy to the Colts is outrageous.

    1. Sorry, you’re correct about the practice facility — the Pacers got free land, not construction costs. (I’ve now fixed this above.) As for the arena getting a lot of use and costing money to operate, though, that doesn’t reduce the level of subsidy that the team is getting.

  6. What’s his leverage? Seattle? No arena, and when they get one it’s going to be a crowded market where he’d need to work a lot harder to sell tickets. He’s got the 25th largest market to himself except for 10 weekends a year when the Colts are home.

  7. Love the line about how he wants to sign the lease “for the city.” Because when you accept a ton of free money from somebody you’re really doing THEM a favor.

  8. In Indy all a pro team owner has to do is whine and our inept CIB says gee honey how much do you need.
    Just three years ago the CIB clowns reopened the Pacer’s contract to provide them with 16 million a year to 10 years for maintenance because the Pacers have never been a profitable venture. Did our CIB ask to see the books, was any evidence of finances revealed? Well no, because team finances are secret. So without a single shred of financial need the CIB reopened their contract, which by the way had a clause that had severe penalties if the Pacers were to move, and gifted them another 160 million dollars. Now with the ink barely dry on a revised contract our never sated sports owner cries my palace isn’t grand enough I’ll need lots more money.
    In case in pro sports 43 years at the public trough isn’t enough too be profitable in a free stadium, a stadium where every cent of profit goes to the team owners whether or not it’s basketball or a concert, concessions, parking, signage, suite rental etc. they get every cent. Most be a lousy business operation if you can’t make a profit when the taxpayers carry all your costs and you receive all of the revenues.

  9. What’s worse is Simon has basically nixed any possibility of spending more of his money to bring in star players to go alongside Paul george. So not only does he want to get free taxpayer money but he also doesn’t want to invest the money he saves into a winning team. Now that’s just a tragedy there.

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