Stern: Pacers deserve lease concessions
By Jeff Rabjohns
Posted: February 15, 2009
PHOENIX -- NBA commissioner David Stern expressed confidence professional basketball would remain in Indianapolis but stopped short of saying he was certain it would.
The Indiana Pacers have the right to renegotiate their Conseco Fieldhouse lease after his season, and plan to do so....
"I don't want to make [Pacers co-owner] Herb Simon's time too easy here, but I will say I understand what they're trying to get is a small fraction of what was done for the Colts," Stern said Saturday night during his annual address of the NBA at All-Star weekend.
In the late 1950s it became apparent in some quarters that the Rapidly Advancing Colored Hoards could not be kept out of white public schools forever (we are speaking, kids, of post-Brown America, by the way; like a lot of Northern urban school districts Indianapolis' would be ruled unconstitutionally segregated in the early 1970s). This, coupled with Eisenhower's dream of
This, however, created, or rather added to, the problems of a group of Old-Money and state university deed holders who owned the property on which the rapidly decaying and increasingly unvisited buildings of Downtown were standing, or in some cases tottering. And most of these were operating under 100-year leases signed around the turn of the century. The clock was ticking. The buildings' ratings were plummeting. And the department-store model on which their economy was based was being pummeled by the new regional shopping plazas.
Fortunately, for some, 1968 brought a new Republican mayor (Richard "Highly Respected Senatorial Supernumerary" Lugar) and a Republican majority to the city council, and together they forged a new vision, which, in brief, consisted of letting all the white people in the county vote for the mayor and city council of Indianapolis, while keeping their own schools and avoiding paying for Indianpolis'. The move kept the city in complete Republican control for the next twenty-five years.
It also ushered in a publicly-financed downtown building program that might've given Cæsar Augustus pause. Based on the ever-popular Public Financing, Private Profit program, it built us a basketball stadium, which it then tore down to build another; built an "all-purpose Dome" which stole us a football team that then demanded we tear it down and build a new one; and a fine new ball-yard designed after beautiful Camden Yards, so we could let the old one, designed after beautiful Wrigley Field, crumble in on itself. Which at least saves on demolition costs.
Not to mention a Convention Center, a few expansions of the Convention Center, a downtown mini-mall, an overarching downtown mega-mall, and uncounted tax breaks, office buildings, multi-purpose facilities, and rape rooms. "Uncounted", because the first thing the Republican majority did was create something called the Capital Improvements Board, designed specifically so that the people actually footing the bill would never quite know what their money was buying or for how much. The CIB answers to no one, not publicly, but has the power to tax; compare that, by the way, with what Republicans say when duly elected governing bodies try to raise taxes for anything else.
And it has recently come to light that the CIB, through no fault of its own, is $85 million in the hole, over a quarter of that being operating costs for the just-opened football barn, where, to everyone's disappointment, the Colts were unable to lose their first-round playoff game this year due to playing elsewhere. The Colts franchise, which was just about the league's poorest when it snuck out of Baltimore twenty-five years ago is now, mirabile dictu, in the middle of the pack, assuming you can believe what the sort of people who tell you such things tell you, which you can't. As far as the public can tell, the Colts contributed to the construction of the thing almost all the money the city paid them for having to break the lease on the old place on accounta we were tearing it down at their insistence. Plus moving expenses. Plus they got to sell the name and keep the money, they get their gate receipts, concessions, and parking plus a percentage of those from any other event the city manages to shoehorn into the place, including this year's state high school football championships, but probably not next year's since the state athletic commission took a bath due to increased rental fees. Again, this is assuming you believe the sort of people who tell you this and who, it must be admitted, have even more reason to lie about things than usual.
Meanwhile Jim Irsay, the Colts' inheritor, repentant former hillbilly heroin addict, and owner of the original manuscript of On the Road and, apparently, a single ugly pinstriped suit, voted with the majority on new NFL regulations which will prevent the Colts from getting a share of a revenue pool designed to help cities in smaller markets compete. I'm sorry, maybe I should have made sure you were sitting down.
Now back a few years ago when the Colts were arguing that they simply had to have a new stadium, on the grounds that the old one was facing the wrong way, who should come to town but then-Commissioner of the National Football League Paul "Paulie Tags" Tagliabue, who told the rapt city fathers that the NFL just couldn't go on any longer without filling the horrible void left in the nation's #2 market when the City of the Angels simultaneously threw out of town two greedhead franchises and never looked back. Whew, close shave, that one. Any readers out in El Lay able to get tickets?
This followed almost directly on the heels of Major League Baseball, which, remarkably, owns its own minor league franchise instead of suckering the nation's universities into providing one for free, coming to town and telling us that either that stadium went, or the franchise did. Surprisingly, no one mentioned that we were talking about minor league baseball, where a reasonable guess is that 85% of the stadia across the country are in imminent danger of collapse. This was followed by nobody asking why we needed to build a new stadium at twice the cost of repairing the fine old one we had. But fortunately we were able to find a piece of available property right Downtown.
And, in fairness, the new ball-yard is a great place to watch a game. Just like the banks of the White River after a good rain are a good place to watch raw sewage pour into the drinking water of people downstream, or any of several urban middle schools are just the place to see the last Commodore 64s still in public use.
SO here come the Pacers, who demanded and received a new basketball palace just eight years ago, for which they paid not a dime, and who now have a contractual right to negotiate new terms. And the Pacers want the CIB to take over the ($15 M, assuming you believe...) operating costs of their arena, just like it did for the Colts.
Now, let's be fair to these people, even though they'll never return the favor. The Pacers are owned--they keep saying reluctantly--by the Simon brothers, international multi-mega mall (Mall of America, e.g.) developers. They bought the team thirty years ago, supposedly at the behest of the second Republican city dynasty, when it looked as if it might leave town (no, really). And, ever since, they've refused to open their books as required by law, citing "trade secrets", like some other NBA team would seek to duplicate the Pacers' record.
Now, the Simons have not exactly been left out of CIB largesse otherwise; they're the operators of that downtown mall and several of the other commercial ventures taxpayers made possible while bound and gagged. They have continually refused to answer any questions about what happens to the franchise when they shuffle off this Sack o' Woe, something of minor interest since the younger Simon is 74 and his brother 82.
Sure, you say, but is that all? Hardly worth mentioning, is it?
Okay, so the President of the CIB is one Robert "Bob" Grand. His day job is Managing Partner of Barnes and Thornberg, the downtown legal firm that pulls Mayor Gomer's strings. It's in that capacity he functions as a registered lobbyist for... (drum roll, please?) Simon Property Group.
So, a couple of things: one, in the spirit of Congressional concern over CEO salaries I would like to suggest that the city of Indianapolis, should it ever fall into the hands of honest public servants, make it Class A Felony Extortion for a representative of any professional sports club, its parent organization or associated entities, to publicly urge any taxpayer concession to the recipient of any public monies, with double the prison time for any mention of moving out of town. Although, unlike the Congress, I don't propose bargaining it down to "shall be shamed by the public posting of an unflattering caricature". And, despite my basic humanitarianism, it seems increasingly likely that Finding a Few Of Them Floating Face Down is the only thing these fucks are ever going to understand.