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Sports Business

Speedway request for tax money could start heated debate

February 11, 2013

It’s difficult to say how proposed state legislation to raise money for Indianapolis Motor Speedway will be received.

Views on giving tax money to sports entities generally lean one of two ways—those who think sports entities are an economic engine worthy of tax support, and those who think they should be left to thrive or die as the free market dictates.

The Indianapolis Colts, Indiana Pacers and Indianapolis Indians play in taxpayer-funded facilities. The Colts and Pacers also get taxpayer money to help with operations. They’re far from alone, as this sort of arrangement has become a national trend.

I suspect, given what the IMS has done and meant for central Indiana for the last century, that lawmakers will support the measure to capture certain taxes generated by Speedway operations to give back to improve the facility.

Judging how public opinion will come down on this is far more difficult. Indianapolis is certainly sports-minded. People seem to understand that without an ocean, mountains or 12 months of summer-like temperatures, Indianapolis has to be creative to stay competitive on a number of levels. Sports entities have long been central to that creative plan.

But a certain fatigue factor is creeping in concerning publicly financing sports entities when other parts of local services and infrastructure are in decay.

Those who support this type of initiative are likely to point out that the IMS has never before asked for a dime. After what we’ve done for other sports franchises here, it seems like it’s time for the taxpayers to pitch in to help the Speedway at least a little, right?

The sigh can already be heard from those opposing these hand-outs. The Speedway is one of the last great sports entities here and nationally that hasn’t extended its hand for a public handout. The Speedway was often used as a shining example of what could be done by a sports entity without taxpayer assistance.

If this measure gets approved by state lawmakers, opponents have to be fearful that the Speedway will soon be back asking for more. Who knows, maybe the money-losing IndyCar Series will ask for financial assistance as well.

Later today we’ll get a good idea of what the lawmakers think. Given the controversy surrounding these types of initiatives, it shouldn’t take much longer to gauge the court of public opinion.

Let the debate begin.

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