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House approves bill to fund Fieldhouse renovation, new soccer stadium

April 11, 2019

The Indiana House on Thursday approved legislation to give the Capital Improvement Board the cash to upgrade Bankers Life Fieldhouse and build a soccer stadium for the Indy Eleven.

The vote came on the eve of a CIB board meeting, during which members will consider a 25-year deal with the Indiana Pacers that is meant to keep the team in Indianapolis well into the future.

The House voted 78-13 to send Senate Bill 7 back to the Indiana Senate, which can either approve it as amended by the House or send it to a conference committee where lawmakers from both chambers will try to work out a compromise between their differing versions.
 
The House-approved version of the bill would provide additional funding to the CIB on a sliding scale—from $9 million in fiscal year 2022 to up to $18 million in fiscal years 2034-2041—and allow state tax revenue to be captured to fund the proposed $150 million stadium for the Indy Eleven.
 
The legislation prohibits the CIB from using state or local tax dollars to finance, construct or subsidize meeting or ballroom space related to a privately owned hotel. That has been a big sticking point for hotel operators in downtown Indianapolis who oppose a proposal to build 1,400 Hilton-branded hotel rooms on Pan Am Plaza.
 
The legislation had been tied to the Pan Am Plaza development, which includes a $120 million expansion of the Indiana Convention Center, because it would have allowed the CIB to capture additional tax revenue generated by the project.
 
The publicly-financed expansion of the convention center is expected to be funded with tax increment financing revenue, and the bill does not affect the city’s ability to pursue that strategy.
 
The bill would allow the CIB, which owns Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Lucas Oil Stadium, Victory Field and the Indiana Convention Center, to receive some state tax revenue generated by eight existing downtown hotels to fund certain sports and hospitality projects, likely including renovations at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
 
“These are facilities that benefit not just the city of Indianapolis and the region, but the state,” said Fishers Republican Rep. Todd Huston, who sponsored the bill.
 
The bill also would allow the Indianapolis City-County Council to extend the auto-rental, admissions and innkeeper’s taxes through 2040. Those taxes, which generated a total of $77.6 million for the CIB in 2017, are set to expire in by the end of 2027.
 
But all of the funding has a catch—the CIB must sign a deal with the Pacers to keep the team in Indianapolis for at least another 25 years. The Pacers’ lease at the fieldhouse expires at the end of 2024. The bill initially said the deal needed to be reached by April 1, but because no deal has been signed yet, lawmakers changed the date to April 20.
 
The CIB is expected to vote on a deal with the Pacers on Friday morning.
 
As for the soccer stadium, the bill would allow up to $9.5 million annually in certain tax revenues to be captured for up to 32 years. And unlike earlier versions of the legislation, Indy Eleven would not be required to join Major League Soccer. The Eleven currently plays in the second-tier United Soccer League.
 
As proposed by Indy Eleven owner Ersal Ozdemir, the $150 million, 20,000-seat soccer stadium would be part of a $550 million, mixed-use project called Eleven Park. The residential and commercial parts of the project would be privately funded, but Ozdemir proposed that the stadium be funded with tax revenue generated by the larger Eleven Park.
 
Indy Eleven would have to sign a long-term agreement with the CIB and pay for 20 percent of the stadium construction costs.
 

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