Indians, Pacers and Colts attendance is only part of story

July 29, 2010
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Several IBJ readers recently asked about the economic impact of the Indiana Pacers. One wanted a comparison between the Pacers and Indianapolis Indians.

The city recently commissioned a study—done by Chicago area consultant Rob Hunden—which found that the Pacers have $55 million annual economic impact on Indianapolis.

Mayor Greg Ballard used that economic impact as justification for paying $33.5 million over the next three years for Conseco Fieldhouse operations expenses as well as $3.5 million in capital improvements.

The reason the comparison is interesting is because the Pacers and Indians bring about the same number of people downtown each year. Last year, the Pacers total attendance for 41 regular season games was 582,295.

For 72 home games, the Indians are on target to draw near 600,000 this season. Last year, the team drew about 550,000 fans to the home games despite lots of rain. In 2008, the team drew 606,166.

The other reason the comparison is interesting is because the Indians pay to play in Victory Field and pay for all the upkeep of the place to boot.

The Indians too commissioned an economic impact study—in 2007. That study—done by Strategic Marketing and Research Inc.—found that the Indians brought $28 million in spending downtown annually.

So why the disparity?

To be fair, I’m not sure we’re comparing apples to apples here. But it is interesting to ponder.

First, Pacers tickets—even at a discount—cost much more than Indians tickets, and that’s a big part of any team’s economic impact. Second, Indians fans seated on the lawn can bring in their own picnic baskets. So that hurts concession sales. And food on the whole at Victory Field is a bit cheaper than at Conseco Fieldhouse.

Corporate hospitality, though it’s down for Pacers games, is probably still a bit higher than it is for the Indians. Certainly, when the Pacers were leading the Eastern Division, corporate hospitality at Pacers games is easily quadruple what it is at Indians games, and probably a lot more than that.

Even with all that, you’d still have to presume that Pacers fans are spending $20 million more annually outside the playing venue, presumably at bars and restaurants and the occasional hotel. I’m assuming traveling NBA teams stay at slightly nicer hotels than do AAA minor league baseball clubs.

In anticipation of the next question; The Colts draw about 560,000 for eight regular season games at Lucas Oil Stadium.

With respect to attendance, we’re only talking regular season here. The Colts have two heavily attended pre-season games and the Pacers have a slate of pre-season games as well, which the Indians do not have.

And if the Pacers and Colts can host a round of the playoffs, there’s a big payoff which the Indians wouldn’t enjoy.

Naturally, city leaders will say all three teams are important to creating a vibrant city. But city taxpayers who help fund the venues have a right to ask where the value for each team sits.

Do the Indians draw as many people downtown as the Pacers and Colts? Yes. Money, though, is another kettle of fish.

As for the value that each team brings the city, that’s another debate entirely.

  • Bravo for the Indians
    This all tells me is that the Indians are trying to be good citizens, keep the games accessible and enjoyable for fans and make it a positive experience all around. And it shows. I have been to numerous Indians games and zero Pacers games, and I like baseball and basketball about equally.

    Economic impact is about more than money. The Indians had me at "hello". The Pacers never had me at all.
  • Economic Impact?
    Mark Rosenburg settled this argument moons ago. Professional sports teams pay only in "prestige." One could argue that the Pacers have been negative for the last five years, the Colts positive, and the Indians neutral. However, as the Indians are the only team actually paying their annual way to the CIB, who can argue that they are not the best of the lot.
  • A Bigger Picture
    Wow, there are dozens of other intangibles that are not even close to being mentioned here.

    Ask a Downtown Bar, Restaurant, or Hotel if there is a difference between Indians gamedays and Colts gamedays. Packed bars bringing in hundreds of thousands of dollars on a Colts Sunday have more of an impact than you'd think. Out-of-town Sports Tourism exists for the Colts that don't as much for Indians/Pacers. Advertising draw associated with the teams are another pull. Add in National Exposure, Press Travel, Gameday Spending, Hotel, Food/Drink, Combine/Super Bowl and the fringe benefits begin to add up in ways the Indians primarily couldn't even begin to think about.

    It's the big picture that needs to be discussed and this article surely doesn't even begin to mention that. The Public Input / Private Benefit debate is a valid one, but in order to discuss the true impact of a Sports Franchise you have to look at every dollar turned over or generated by the Team's presence.
  • upgrades???
    did this just say we paid $3.5 for upgrades to Conseco??? what do they need now? seems that the pacers are owned by Simons that work in Development so they could make the upgrades themselves. this is stupid.
    • $$$ well spent?
      3.5 million could go to the libraries or for parks. something that my family uses more than conseco field house. how is it we find them money but will cut the budgets of schools, libraries, and the parks? i don't know why a business would relocation here when we are reducing the budgets of the things that make are city great. our schools and the funding suck, the libraries are possibly closing, and parks are underfunded. no wonder crime is up.
    • Intrinsic Value
      While I would agree that the Colts and Pacers offer prestige (and more outside spending) to the city, I think the Indians offer so much to their attendees in areas not financially tangible. My husband, son and I met up with another family for Saturday's game, and I was so impressed with all they offer. Carnival-like games? One dollar each. Airbrush tatoos, $1-2 apiece. Even though I know I'm sure a lot of beer is probably served at Victory Field each game night, I didn't see any disorderly patrons like I have at Pacers and Colts games--I was overwhelmed at how truly family-friendly the atmosphere was. I wish my tax dollars were supporting that instead!
    • Human Capital / Not Just a Game
      The fact is the Midtown district pays to the City well over $60 million per year in property tax alone. To be able to maintain the economic impact that we the people, our communities give to the City and State, we need to see the reinvestment into the communities, into the Human Capital with in Marion County. The City, State, and Feds need to spend the millions, or in the case with just the sports totals, the billions rebuilding the communities that give and create the real economic engines.
    • Speedway
      Hope the Speedway does not need taxpayer funding now that attendence is way down like a Pacer Game Event. I do not think we should be forced to pay taxes for rich peoples businesses
    • Prof. Rosentraub has proven a long time ago that Indy is the exception to the rule because we are set up perfectly and uniquely to maximize the economic impact of our venues. No other City has the combination of venues within walking distance of each other, hotels, attractions, shopping and the convention Center. Link to Prof. Rosentraubs second book.
      Of course, the downtown restaurants benefit from the downtown being subsidized by a Ponzi scheme; if they didn't, the scheme would be even a bigger crime than it is. The issue is that no one else benefits except the partners in crime; the subsidized downtown business, the billionaire owners, and the politicians who garner favors from those they transfer our money to.
    • So What
      Big deal that, during the NFL season, the bars are busier for eight to ten days out of the entire year. The economic benefit of subsidizing professional sports? - pffft.
    • I will admit if Lucas Oil was football only, like many stadiums like Gilette, Soldier Field, Fed Ex Field etc...., you would have a point. The colts would only bring in home crowds for 10 to 12 games and fill bars and restaurants for another 10 to 12. And the stadium would not be much of an economic engine. But it is not just for that. It will be used between 200 and 250 times a year when the CC expansion is completed.

      I find it interesting when people say only downtown restaurants benefit. First, for the Colts, there are only a couple of restaurants and bars in Central indiana that are not packed on Colts game days.

      I guess the people who have jobs in industries from hotel to restaurant to suppliers of goods etc do not matter. I guess the out of town money is not a good thing. I guess the tax revenue that comes in is not good. Nor the millions in advertising Indy gets every time the City is featured on National and International television.

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