Black Expo making pitch for lost CIB grant

April 12, 2010

Indiana Black Expo Inc. is lobbying the Indianapolis Capital Improvement Board to restore an annual $150,000 grant it lost last year when the CIB encountered financial difficulties.

Leaders of the local not-for-profit are scheduled to make their pitch to CIB members at their monthly meeting Monday afternoon.

CIB, which operates Lucas Oil Stadium, Conseco Fieldhouse, Victory Field and the Indiana Convention Center, typically helps fund IBE, the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership and city arts organizations.

But it stopped supporting the groups after running into money problems and spending much of last year making cuts to close a projected $47 million deficit for 2010. Annually, CICP also received $150,000 from CIB, while the arts community got $1 million. Neither of those grants has been restored, either.

For IBE, which operates on a $5 million annual budget, the $150,000 gift has hindered the association’s ability to promote itself effectively, Chief Operating Officer Perry Hines said.

“I don’t care who you are, that’s a pretty significant portion,” he said. “That, coupled with the economy, has posed a pretty serious challenge to us.”

Hines said IBE is “cautiously optimistic” CIB members will recognize the value the organization brings to the city. IBE presents the annual Indiana Black Expo Summer Celebration, held in July, and now has taken the Circle City Classic under its wing, making the CIB funding even more critical.

IBE announced in December that it assumed management responsibilities for the Classic, the annual October event in Indianapolis featuring a parade and football game between two historically black colleges.

But prying the $150,000 it lost from the CIB could prove to be difficult.

CIB President Ann Lathrop said members will discuss the proposal, but she doubted they’ll make a decision at Monday’s meeting.

“Having just gotten through February,” she said, “we’re going to watch our revenue streams before we make commitments.”

CIB’s financial woes partly stem from a provision that allows the Indiana Pacers to break its lease after 10 years, triggering a possible $15 million in additional Fieldhouse operating costs. An agreement has yet to be reached with the Pacers, although CIB officials continue to negotiate with the team.

Additional expenses involved in operating Lucas Oil Stadium also led to the deficit.

Cost-cutting moves last year have helped the CIB reduce its operating budget from $78 million at the beginning of 2009 to a proposed $63 million in 2010, although the organization anticipates spending as little as $52 million.


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