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Lawmakers poised for final approval of bill to fund Pacers deal, soccer stadium

April 22, 2019

State lawmakers say they have no more changes to make to legislation that would fund most of a planned $360 million renovation of Bankers Life Fieldhouse, setting up a final vote as soon as Tuesday on the bill that could also fund a soccer stadium for the Indy Eleven.

Senate Bill 7 provide millions in additional revenue to the Capital Improvement Board to help keep the Indiana Pacers in Indianapolis for the next 25 years and solve a long-term funding problem for the CIB.

The bill has already passed the House and Senate—but in different forms. After the House vote, the bill's author—Sen. Ryan Mishler, R-Bremen—initially filed what's called a dissent, meaning he wanted to move the legislation to a conference committee, where members of the House and Senate would work to find a compromise between their differing language.

But Mishler withdrew that dissent on Monday afternoon, meaning no additional changes will be made and the Senate could vote on the House version of the bill anytime. The legislative session is expected to wrap up as early as Wednesday.

The bill would extend the admissions and auto-rental taxes—which would otherwise expire in 2023—until 2040 and expands what’s known as the professional sports development area that captures state income and sales tax revenue to include an additional eight hotels.

The existing PSDA is a mostly downtown zone that captures state income and sales taxes collected at Lucas Oil Stadium, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Victory Field and four downtown hotels—plus the Indianapolis Colts’ northwest-side practice venue.

The CIB receives up to $16 million a year from the sports arenas and up to $8 million from the hotels. Any additional tax revenue goes to the state.

The legislation also authorizes the state treasurer to essentially lend the CIB money to make up for the revenue set to be diverted away from the agency starting in 2028. The CIB estimates that annual loan could range from $7.2 million to $20.2 million, depending on the year.

All of the funding was tied to the CIB reaching a 25-year deal with the Pacers, which it did earlier this month. 

As for the soccer stadium, the bill would allow up to $9.5 million annually in tax revenues to be captured for up to 32 years to pay off bonds for an outdoor stadium. Indy Eleven owner Ersal Ozdemir has proposed developing a $150 million, 20,000-seat soccer stadium that 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.
 
Under the legislation, Indy Eleven would have to sign a long-term agreement with the CIB and pay for 20 percent of the stadium construction costs.

The House version varied from Mishler’s proposal in a few key ways: 

  • It provides additional funding to the CIB on a sliding scale rather than a set cap—from $9 million in fiscal year 2022 to up to $18 million in fiscal years 2034-2041.
  • It does not require the Indy Eleven to become part of the Major League Soccer franchise before tax dollars could be used to help fund a permanent stadium. The team currently plays in the second-tier United Soccer League, and Mishler’s version would have required the team to join MLS within three years. 
  • It 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—a sticking point for local hotel operators opposed to the proposed 1,400 Hilton-branded hotel rooms at Pan Am Plaza.

The House voted 78-13 to approve the bill earlier this month.

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