The Indiana Pacers will stay put in Conseco Fieldhouse at least through 2012, thanks to a three-year deal approved July 16 by the city’s Capital Improvement Board that provides the franchise at least $33.5 million.
Under the terms of the agreement, CIB will give Pacers Sports & Entertainment $10 million a year for three years to defray the costs of operating Conseco Fieldhouse. CIB also has agreed to pay at least $3.5 million for capital improvements at the venue.
Without the deal, Pacers officials said, they’d have to consider selling and/or moving the franchise.
The Pacers’ lease at Conseco Fieldhouse extends through 2019, but the team has the right to opt out due to financial difficulties. 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 million to $18 million required annually to operate the facility.
The sole voice of dissent belonged to 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.
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 of the WNBA, contribute an estimated $55 million a year to the Indianapolis economy.
The Pacers funding was a dicey issue for local officials who approved the deal while contending with financial shortfalls at the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library and IndyGo bus system.
Some relief was found for IndyGo and the libraries, but the library system was not able to avoid layoffs and a 26-percent reduction in hours across the system.
The Indianapolis City-County Council by a 15-14 vote on Oct. 25 passed CIB’s $73.1 million 2010 budget, which included a $10 million payment to the Pacers for the fieldhouse operations.•