The Indiana Pacers likely will stay put in their current home of Conseco Fieldhouse for at least the next three years, thanks
to a deal approved Friday afternoon by the Capital Improvement Board that provides the franchise at least $33.5 million.
Under the terms of the agreement, the CIB will give Pacers Sports & Entertainment $10 million per year for three years, specifically to defray the costs of operating Conseco Fieldhouse. The CIB also has agreed to pay at least $3.5 million for capital improvements at the venue.
The Pacers' lease at Conseco Fieldhouse extends through 2019, but the team has the right to opt out. In negotiations with the city, Pacers officials said they lost money every year but one since moving into the fieldhouse and could no longer afford to pay the $14 to $18 million required annually to operate the facility.
“This deal has the benefit of taking uncertainly off the table for three years,” said CIB member David Shane during board discussion of the agreement.
Shane raised the possibility that franchise owner Herb Simon might sell the team after tiring of shouldering losses. And, echoing sentiments from several other board members, Shane noted that both the city and the Pacers’ financial futures could be clearer in three years’ time.
“I don’t want to tempt fate,” Shane said. The agreement was approved by a 6-1 vote.
The sole voice of dissent belonged CIB member Douglas Brown, who acknowledged the Pacers’ value to downtown Indianapolis but preferred that the city and team craft a longer-term deal now, rather than delay for three years.
“I don’t think the environment for a long-term deal is going to get any better [than it is currently],” Brown said. “I think we need to strike while the iron is hot. … It took us two years to get this agreement. I would hate to think that we’d be perpetually in negotiations with the Pacers.”
As part of the deal, the Pacers must repay at least part of the $33.5 million if the team leaves before 2019.
A CIB-commissioned study concluded that the Pacers along with the Indiana Fever contribute an estimated $55 million a year to the Indianapolis economy.