Legislature and State Government and Government and Sports Business

Colts, Pacers or Indians ticket stumbles would trip up Kenley plan

April 13, 2009

Sen. Luke Kenley's CIB bailout plan counts on the Indianapolis Colts to keep up their sellout streak, and assumes the Indiana Pacers and Indianapolis Indians will maintain at least their current popularity.

Over time, their box scores will make or break CIB.

Kenley's plan would increase Marion County's Admissions Tax on tickets to sporting events in CIB facilities and the Indiana Convention Center from 6 percent to 10 percent. He said the tax hike would generate $6 million annually for the cash-strapped municipal corporation.

That may be true eventually, especially as the tax begins to apply to ticketed events in the expanded convention center. But according to the Legislative Services Agency, the Admissions Tax hike would bring in just $4.3 million in new revenue during the fiscal year ending in June 2010, with $100,000 increases in each of the following two years.

LSA built its projections off sports attendance figures during each team's last full season. The Colts have sold out 81 straight home games, dating back to the last game of the 1998 season. That includes last year's eight regular season games and two preseason games at the 70,000-seat Lucas Oil Stadium. This year, the team has reported that season-ticket renewals are running at 95 percent, with a 24,000-deep waiting list.

Observers expect the Colts to continue their sellouts for at least the next few years. But if they don't down the road—say, in the years after quarterback Peyton Manning retires—revenue to CIB would fall.

During their 2007-2008 season, the Pacers averaged an NBA-low 12,221 fans per game for 41 regular-season home games. With deeply discounted ticket prices, the basketball team has improved attendance to 14,010 per game through 37 games this season, the 28th-lowest attendance of the NBA's 30 teams.

With a mediocre draft expected and little player salary cap room available to make significant changes to the team via free agency, improving Pacers' attendance next season will be a challenge, observers say. But if the Pacers eventually become an elite team, as they were in the '90s, CIB would get an Admissions Tax windfall.

As for the Indians, win or lose, their attendance has increased every year since 2003.

During the 2007-2008 season, the baseball team drew 8,538 fans per game, and during a stretch of 38 games after June 19, that average topped 10,000.

If the economy continues to stagger, sports marketers think fans will gravitate to relatively inexpensive entertainment options, which could push the Indians' attendance higher this season—which benefits CIB.

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