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Colts trying to tackle proposed ticket-tax hike

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The Indianapolis Colts are playing defense as city leaders move to hike a ticket tax on downtown events by 67 percent.

The team says raising the tax on tickets from 6 percent to 10 percent will harm its bottom line and that of local businesses that rely on Colts fans. The tax is levied on events at Lucas Oil Stadium, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Victory Field and the Indiana Convention Center.

The tax would add more than $3 to the average Colts ticket, which now costs about $88, said Colts Chief Operating Officer Pete Ward. Season ticket holders on average would pay $30 more for 10 games, even though the team has kept base prices steady since 2010. Prices on the stadium's most expensive tickets would rise more than $11 per game.

“This is coming at a time when tickets for sporting events across the board are in less demand, and the competition with the flat screen in the living room is keener than ever,” Ward said. “We also don’t think it’s in the best interest of business downtown. It just increases the cost for our fans, not only for Colts fans, but other events as well.

"We always try to price our tickets to the market, and this just makes it more difficult," he added.

Even a slight decrease in ticket demand could lead to some games not selling out, prompting TV blackouts of the game in the local market. That hurts not only the Colts, but the city's image as well, the team said.

The tax increases are part of a budget deal between Republican Mayor Greg Ballard and Democratic leaders on the City-County Council including President Maggie Lewis. The deal, which restores $32 million for county agencies Ballard had vetoed, also would raise the total tax on car rentals to 17 percent.

A council committee approved the proposal Tuesday night. A final vote on the tax increase is set for Jan. 28.

City leaders have said the increases are essential to secure the fiscal health of the city and Capital Improvement Board, which owns the city's sports venues and convention center.

The first year's extra tax revenue, an estimated $6.7 million, would flow to the city's general fund to close a budget deficit. After that, 25 percent of the tax money—up to a maximum of $3 million—would go to the city’s coffers each year, and the rest would go to the CIB. The CIB also will pay $5 million for public safety services this year.

Marc Lotter, a spokesman for the mayor, said he does not expect the move to have an adverse effect on ticket sales for local sports teams.

“Fans are very dedicated and loyal to our professional sports teams,” he said. “We’re focused on the long-term good of the city and the fiscal health of the city and CIB, which operates the facilities where the teams play.”

The Indiana Pacers have not taken as vocal a stand against the ticket-tax increase, perhaps since the CIB agreed late last year to pay $10 million to help Pacers Sports & Entertainment run the Fieldhouse, extending an expired three-year deal. The team keeps all revenue from events at the stadium.

Pacers President Jim Morris did not immediately return a phone message Wednesday morning.

The Colts for now are focused on lobbying elected officials and have no plans to appeal directly to fans, Ward said.

Arguably, the Indianapolis Indians have the most grounds for complaint. The team is the only local team that pays rent for its taxpayer-built facility, and also the only one that operates its stadium without subsidy.

Yet, Cal Burleson, the Indians vice president and general manager, struck a diplomatic tone on the ticket-tax hike.

"The Indianapolis Indians do not enjoy paying higher taxes any more than our fans do," Burleson wrote in an e-mail to IBJ. "We also recognize the need to have a dynamic and vibrant downtown, and are optimistic that increased revenue for the CIB would better enable our community to work toward that goal."

Burleson noted that the team is keeping its ticket prices for the 2013 season the same as they were in 2012.

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  • Yes, The Colts and Pacers Are A Waste
    Rick, if the tax drives the Colts and Pacers away, then it may be the best thing that happened to Indianapolis. Sports, and in fact no private enterprise, should be financed in whole or in part by the government. If someone wants to have a football or a basketball team, then they should pay for it completely themselves, and if they cannot figure a way to make it profitable, then they should close down, just like any other business. I am sick of the city robbing funds from vital public services to give to the billionaire Simons and Irsays. Their sports teams will probably be forced to eat a bit of the ticket admission taxes, but it is a shame they cannot be forced to eat the full cost and also made to pay the all the other expenses of their sports teams.
  • Forget Coffee
    Greg, how about instead we do it the old-fashioned way: If the supremely wealthy owners of the Colts want to have a football team, let them run it as a true private enterprise without lavish taxpayer financed facilities and subsidies. The sweetheart deals for the Irsays and Simons rival the sort of corrupt deals one normally sees in a third-world dictatorship. Go stuff the coffeehouse idea, instead have the Irsays and Simons pay for their private sports enterprises out of their own pockets. At least the admission tax indirectly puts some of the burden back on the Irsays and Simons--as they won't be able to push all of the cost on the their ticket goers and they will have to eat a small bit of the expense--too bad they cannot be made to bear all of the expense of running their teams and the city can get back to providing vital government services.
  • Top Notch Organization
    Interesting the Indians, a minor league organization, are the only local team that pays rent and the only one that operates its stadium without a subsidy. Writer of the article himself said they have grounds for complaint and their VP had the most positive statement. Class Act all the way while being treated so unfairly. And already said keeping ticket prices the same regardless if hiked. Thanks Indians!
  • Don't you mean...
    ... no ADDITIONAL NFL welfare? You know, if things go well, Andrew Luck will need to make $25-30 million/year someday.
  • No NFL Welfare
    You want us to believe that someone who pays $88 for a Colts ticket won't pay $91? Let's face it NFL tickets became the province of the upper middle and upper classes a long time ago. Once you've paid for the ticket you then pay way over market price for food, drinks and whatever. Me thinks Irsay protests too much.
  • RipOff
    Colts games are only now for the fake fans, the corporations and rich folks. even if you get a cheap seat at the game, it costs a family of 4 over $500 to make a trip, and probably much more than that. its a joke! majority of real fans cant make games so we sit at home bc i dont have that kinda money. you can thank all the ticket brokers and corporations who hopped on the Peyton bandwagon and ran up the ticket prices. sorry I'm bitter, just annoying paying $100 for a nosebleed seat! i go to a lot of Pacers games bc i can get cheap seats on stubhub and we move down. so i really dont care bc the only people paying for the extra tax will be corporations and those w/ enough money that they wont care
  • Lets do like the coffee shop guy?
    Let's simply do it like the guy who owners the coffee shop I just read about. Conservatives pay the standard ticket price and Liberals pay a slightly higher taxed price. This way everyone is happy?
    • We Want Ownership
      The Colts and Pacers told us to get lost the last time Luke Kenley asked them to pitch in to save the CIB from default. Our taxes were then raised and the CIB just turned around and gave it to the Pacers. Now they want to raise our taxes again. Neither the Pacers or Colts are giving anything. It time to demand taxpayer ownership in these teams like GreenBay and Cleveland for our massive subsidies to billionaire owners and millionaire players.
    • Tax is Minor
      The tax is minor. As a season ticket holder, my $79 tickets would go to $82. Not a big deal if the money is being put to a good use for our City. That is the key question though.
    • Let the Colts pay
      Let the Colts pay for it. They can reduce the tickets by the amount of tax. They have gotten a free ride from the taxpayers for too long.
    • Here's an idea
      Have the corporations underwrite the increase. The huge companies have the suites and usually sit closest to field because they buy their way in. Have them pay. Us fans will still be behind a column waching and paying $9 for a Pepsi and refinancing our mortgage for a hot dog.
      • Fairness
        Doesn't it make sense that the people who actually use Lucas Oil and Banker's Life shoulder the expense of running those facilities? It is the rental car tax that is unfair, since we are asking all visitors- tourists and business people- to also pay for these facilities. I particularly don't like the fact that the Colts are whining about this, since they have gotten a sweetheart deal from day #1.
      • Shell Game
        "The CIB also will pay $5 million for public safety services this year." Not really. The CIB is being reimbursed by the City via some TIF slush funds. It is nothing more than a shell game to protect the CIB at the expense of basic services.
      • What a waste
        Once again politicians are doing what is in their own best interest - buying votes to retain power. Raising taxes just gives ineffective government more money to waste while driving away business that provide jobs. BRILLIANT!

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