Economy and Government

EYE ON THE PIE: Let's explore options to finance stadium

January 3, 2005

Phinneas Phogghorn, Indiana's third U.S. senator, was home for the holidays and in fine voice at the Dixie Donut Shoppe.

"Rubbish," the jewel of Jeffersonville intoned to his assembled admirers. "Unadulterated rubbish is all I can say about the view held by too many Hoosiers that a stadium for the Indianapolis Colts is not for the benefit of all the people of Indiana. The Colts are more than a mere symbolic representation of the state in the minds of football fans both within and beyond our borders."

Skepticism and silence met this discourse, but the larynx of Logansport proceeded unabated. "Indianapolis is just about at the center of the state-Indiana's geographic center is 14 miles northwest of Indianapolis in Boone County, while the population center is even closer, just northwest of Sheridan in Hamilton County. The city is not only the center of government, it is the center of business and services for most of the state. It represents the most progressive elements of Indiana's cultural and intellectual resources. Improvements to the economy of Indianapolis benefit every Hoosier by increasing tax revenue for the state, lowering the burdens on others.

"The nation's view of Indiana, as I can tell you from my long service as your most senior senator, is not positive," the rajah of Richmond continued. "Indianapolis alone offers disputation for this denigration of our fair state."

The prophet of Plymouth and Princeton looked about for reaction, but none confirmed his enthusiasm. Undeterred, he continued: "How should this stadium be financed? The National Football League will not permit the citizens of Indiana to buy stock in the team as has been done in Green Bay, Wis. No one seems to have discussed a private bond issue by the Colts to fund the stadium. The only discussion is public financing via an unsavory goulash of mechanisms, including an extension of gambling.

"Personally," the vicar of Valparaiso said, "I am opposed to the extension of gambling. In fact, I would get rid of all gambling in the state. But that is not within the purview of your humble servant; it is a matter for your Legislature, which has become addicted to gambling revenue. So, what is to be done?

"I suggest Indianapolis establish restricted, high-class casinos to increase convention business. These casinos would be located only in convention hotels. They could feature entertainment as well as gambling and be open to convention or large-meeting attendees only. They would be available to Indiana citizens only if they were part of a convention or meeting using such space either in the hotels or the convention center.

"I cannot favor pull-tabs or other devices to spread gambling around the state. I cannot support more encouragement of practices that teach young people that the great rewards in life are based on chance. Let us establish the idea," the conscience of Crothersville decreed, "in Indiana gambling is something to keep foreigners entertained, not something virtuous Hoosiers pursue."

At this point, Phinneas paused and a listener shouted, "Whatcha bettin' on the odds of this happenin'?" The wizard of Warsaw and Winchester looked about and one could see his political antennae quiver.

"In addition," the knight of Kendallville asserted, "if any public funds of any sort are used to finance this stadium, I would demand that the NFL exempt the Colts from the rule that blacks out local TV broadcasting of games that are not sold out. If the people of Indiana are to fund this team's home, we should have the right to see all the games the team plays."

Now those listening broke into hoops and hollers of approval. That old senator knows how to win over a hostile crowd-make sure they get something for "free."



Marcus taught economics more than 30 years at Indiana University and is the former director of IU's Business Research Center. His column appears weekly. To comment on this column, send e-mail to mmarcus@ibj.com.
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