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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Lawmakers look for cash for Indy sports board

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State lawmakers are looking for ways to bail out the financially struggling group that runs professional sports stadiums in Indianapolis.

The Indianapolis Capital Improvement Board could be $35 million short in its operation of Lucas Oil Stadium, Conseco Fieldhouse, Victory Field and the Indiana Convention Center. The board is already $20 million short this year, and that budget hole could grow because the Indiana Pacers say they can no longer afford to pay the $15 million cost to run Conseco Fieldhouse.
The issue has drawn the attention of legislators, who are working on a proposal to raise money.
“We’re stuck trying to find an answer here,” said Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne. “We’re going to have to pass some legislation.”
Details are still murky, but any solution will likely involve contributions from the city, the Capital Improvement Board and professional sports teams like the NFL Colts and the NBA Pacers, said Sen. Luke Kenley, a Republican from Noblesville who is working on the plan.
“We have been trying to come up with different solutions to see if we can raise the money or give Marion County the opportunity to raise the money,” Kenley said. “We’re expecting contributions from all participants.”
The state may also have to pony up, Kenley said, based on the idea that state revenues are boosted by sales activity at the stadiums and surrounding venues.
One idea would be to allow the expansion of professional sports development areas around the state, Long said. The development zones capture tax revenue that otherwise would go to the state and direct it toward specific projects within the zone.
Kenley said almost all options are on the table. Some have wondered whether lawmakers will propose raising alcohol taxes statewide.
“We’re not specifically considering that, but I just wouldn’t exclude any discussion at this time,” Kenley said. “It’s very difficult to find revenue sources.”
Long said the thought of using state money to help a local board is giving some people heartburn.
Senate Minority Leader Vi Simpson, a Democrat from Bloomington, said it’s hard to make the case for people far from Indianapolis to help pay for the local problem. She said people in the rest of the state should also benefit from any proposed solution. Simpson said residents would likely join the Colts and Pacers in pitching in to help the board.
“Money’s got to come from somewhere,” she said.
Kenley and Rep. William Crawford, D-Indianapolis, are leading discussions on the issue. Kenley said they planned to meet next week with interested parties, and said they will hold public hearings on the matter.

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