Groups fear escalating stadium costs-WEB ONLY




Organizations hosting events
at Lucas Oil Stadium already expected to pay more than they did at the RCA
Dome, but some fear the Capital Improvement Board’s financial difficulties
could drive costs even higher.


The concern is greater for
not-for-profits operating on tight budgets that likely will pay at least 25
percent more to use the stadium compared with rates at the RCA Dome. In
addition, some are receiving fewer grant dollars from the CIB, further
straining financial resources.


Music For All, the former
Bands of America Organization that relocated to Indianapolis
from Chicago in
2003, will conduct its November Grand National Championships in Lucas Oil
Stadium for the first time. CEO L. Scott McCormick anticipates that stadium
costs will be higher than at other venues hosting Music for All events, such as
the Georgia Dome in Atlanta or Alamodome in San Antonio.


“It has clearly become the
most expensive of all the [stadiums] we use around the country, and that
clearly was not the case with the RCA Dome,” McCormick said. “The challenge in
this economy is, how do you navigate those waters?”


The Indiana High School
Athletic Association did so by raising ticket prices. In 2007, the last year it
held football championships in the RCA Dome, the IHSAA paid $152,000 in rental
fees. Last year, in the new stadium, those costs climbed more than 40 percent,
to $261,000, according to the IHSAA.


Despite the higher ticket
prices, the football games drew record attendance, likely due to the novelty of
the new stadium, said Jason Wille, IHSAA’s sports information director.


The CIB is the city agency
that operates the stadium, Conseco Fieldhouse, Victory Field and the Indianapolis Convention Center. Its looming $47
million budget deficit is due largely to the additional $20 million it takes to
manage the larger stadium and $15 million in Conseco Fieldhouse operating costs
it anticipates assuming next year from the struggling Indiana Pacers.


State legislators failed to
take action on a bill that would have allowed Indianapolis to raise hotel, car rental and
ticket taxes to help fund the CIB. But a solution could arise from the special
legislative session likely to be held in mid-June. Any funding proposal would
need to be approved by both the state Legislature and City-County Council.


In the meantime, Dan
Acheson, executive director of Drum Corps International, hopes a remedy is


“What I am concerned about is
that the stadium deal could change because of the CIB situation,” he said.


While anything is possible,
hiking stadium rental rates is highly unlikely, CIB Vice President Pat Early


“I don’t think it’s
realistic,” he said. “But again, that’s assuming we can solve these problems
and be able to provide these services.”


Cities that have hosted Drum
Corps International’s World Championships remain interested in the event, said
Acheson. He still receives occasional inquiries even though it has a contract
he views as “fair.”

Acheson told CIB members at
one of their recent meetings that the competition is “real,” and if they want
the World Championships to remain in Indianapolis
they need to resolve the crisis.


Neither Music For All nor
Drum Corps International is seeking to break its contract to use the stadium.
But Acheson acknowledged there are “plenty of out clauses on both sides.”


“There are always
opportunities out there if we needed to go to those,” he said.


Drum Corps International
relocated to Indianapolis from the Chicago suburbs last year
in part because of the new stadium and the city’s efforts to build a hub of
not-for-profit music organizations. 


The organization has a
nine-year agreement with the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association
to host its World Championships at the stadium in August. Drum Corps
International held the event in Bloomington
last year because construction of the stadium wasn’t finished.


The ICVA markets the CIB’s
venues. ICVA Director of Communications Bill Benner declined to discuss the
not-for-profit’s contract concerns.


To step up city marketing
efforts, ICVA requested up to $5 million in additional yearly funding from the
CIB that it has not received. The ICVA’s $10.5 million budget ranks below many
of its competitors’. Only Minneapolis
$9.6 million is less. In contrast, San
‘s visitors association receives $20 million.


Acheson said the ICVA’s lack
of support is as disconcerting to him as the possibility that his stadium deal
could change.


Still, he and McCormick said
they remain committed to Indianapolis,
but he stressed that the CIB situation needs to get fixed soon. 


“It’s a huge drain on us and
a huge drain on the arts,” McCormick said. “I certainly hope that it’s a
short-term problem.”

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