State lawmakers propose fund aimed at attracting more major sporting events, conventions

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Three state lawmakers have filed a bill to create a new tourism fund aimed at helping convention- and sports-focused organizations across the state attract more events to Indiana.

The bill, authored by Republican Sens. Travis Holdman, Ryan Mishler and Kyle Walker would create the framework of a bid fund, which would be included in the overall budget for the Indiana Destination Development Corp.

The Indiana Sports Corp. would be responsible for administering a grant program to disperse the funds, with the organization giving money to groups across the state as well as using a portion of the funding for its own bidding efforts. The bill calls for at least 25% of the funds to go toward events outside of Marion County.

Indiana Sports Corp. officials declined to comment, instead referring IBJ to Walker to discuss the bill.

Walker said he sees the legislation as an investment in Indiana because of the economic impact and tax dollars big events tend to generate. He also noted that while sports are the biggest focus of the bill, tourism groups can also use funds to pursue major conventions and trade shows.

“There’s a return on investment,” he said. “It’s repaid in the form of economic impact and direct sales tax. And there’s a proven pattern of success [with big events]. So, this is not an expense. It’s really an investment that has a return that pays a dividend to taxpayers across the state of Indiana.”

Currently, the state does not have a bid fund that groups can tap into as they pursue major events, instead leaving the organizations to rely on existing budgets, private donations and ancillary local incentives as part of their bid package—including for major events like the Super Bowl, the College Football Playoff and various major conventions.

At least 15 other states have bid funds similar to the one proposed, according to Walker, with most funded with at least $5 million annually.

The General Assembly would determine how much funding would go to the fund as part of its 2023 budgeting process. Walker said it’s too soon to know how much money would go into the fund.

“I don’t want to say a specific number because I think it’s too early to tell, but I think it merits a significant investment,” he said. “If that’s $5 million … I think that may be a good starting point for the conversation. But I think we should take the time to talk with stakeholders and determine what that right amount is.”

During a hearing on the bill last week, Indiana Sports Corp.’s Ryan Vaughn said $5 million would be an “extraordinary” amount. The Senate Appropriations Committee will weigh in on the issue on Thursday, when it holds a hearing on the bill at 3:30 p.m. in Statehouse Room 431.

Chris Gahl, vice president of Visit Indy, said the Indianapolis tourism agency is supportive of the bill.

“After years of studying the feasibility, this bill is laser focused on our state as a whole staying competitive in the tourism arena of attracting and retaining conventions and events,” said Gahl. “Alongside the Indiana Sports Corp, we have tracked an emergence of bid funds successfully created and successfully taking away wins from our state.”

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14 thoughts on “State lawmakers propose fund aimed at attracting more major sporting events, conventions

  1. A native of Lawrence, Walker beat out four other candidates on the first round of balloting. He pledged to uphold Republican values – in his words, “limited government, free enterprise and fiscally conservative policies.”

    Always these charlatans say stuff like that. Liars.



    1. I don’t understand the alternative that we have as a state given the commitment we have made for a significant amount of the downtown Indianapolis economy to run based on conventions and sporting events… especially given the likelihood that the downtown business district never gets the same foot traffic as more people adopt either hybrid or WFH schedules.

      It would also be a good use of money to develop housing for the homeless to live in with little or no rules for them to stay.


      Report recommends more low-barrier shelter beds for homeless Indianapolis residents

    2. The alternative is to default on the bonds, considering the bondholders are the ones who supposedly took the risk on these cockamamie central planning schemes that always fail.

    3. Eric M. – Most states have these kinds of funds available to attract businesses. If Indiana decides not to compete in that arena, Indiana will lose. Like salt poured on to slugs, everything will just dry up. How many people lose their jobs – and their income to pay rents and mortgages and property taxes, fill up their gas tanks, put food on the table, cloth their kids, and pay medical expenses? Be careful what you wish for because for every action there is a reaction. And the unintended consequences can be disastrous.

    4. OK, Eric, so what’s your alternative? Having people work at distribution centers? That seems to be a booming industry here in Indiana right until that gets automated away. Of course, doesn’t pay very much.

      We’re a manufacturing state which given the convergence of automation and outsourcing is akin to being the world leader in buggy whips the same year the Model T came out.

      We also have no inclination to spend any money on her education to upskill our workforce or our kids; we seem to think that’s the responsibility of the employer … and based upon the types of businesses we land here in Indiana, they would rather not. It was a thing that unions did awhile ago but we’ve already decided that unions should no longer be a thing unless it’s the police and fire unions.

      The few businesses that we get here in Indiana that are high-end jobs land here because we promise them government incentives. Guess I don’t see those as any different than bonds.

      We’d rather just give up and give ourselves a tax cut than spend the money that the federal government gave us to invest in the future, to make the state of Indiana a nice enough place that businesses and people WANT to be here. This state is eating its seed corn, little wonder so many people end up addicted to drugs and ODing.

    5. Joe B, end the wars on drugs, poverty, terrorism (both domestic and foreign), and bad money (i.e. end the Fed), and many of these other problems will go away. But for supposed fiscal conservatives here to play into by giving away the farm to drug addled people like Irsay is not the real solution.

    6. I’m going to need some explanation as to how ending the Fed and changing the way we prosecute drug offenders is going to help a bunch of service workers in Indianapolis find work when Indianapolis stops hosting events like the Final Four or the PRI show. Connect the dots for me.

      I’d rather oppose this bill simply because the amount is going to be determined in a later budget and legislature. Wait and come back next year and tier the statutory authority and funding together.

    7. The Fed has led to hyper-financialization of the economy, helping lead to hyper-governmentalization (as your comment about government incentives leading to businesses locating here and just about anywhere; race to the bottom). See the increase in income gap post closing of gold window August 15, 1971. Real wages for real workers have fallen; opposite for government and finance workers since then. Hard for single income family to support itself, which was not the case before the Fed completely controlled money supply.

      Wars on poverty and drugs have decimated family formation. So unfortunately many families are single income because they are single parent.

    8. Another reason family formation is so hard is because families have to be dual income to try to make ends meet.

      I still don’t understand the relevance of any of the rest of your point, nor do I know enough to know if what you’re saying is 100% true or 100% nonsense. I also don’t understand how the gold standard would work if the rest of the world isn’t buying into it.

      We have a lot of hotels downtown that need conventions and sporting events to stay occupied and employers of people. You’re proposing that all go away. What do you want to replace it that will lead to actual jobs for actual people with actual wages?

  2. So, now these events have to be subsidized? When will we put infrastructure and education first? Pick your cause, almost anything should come before this racket. For those who think this is going to leverage more growth and more revenue, I ask you why haven’t all the other sporting events been enough to where we could avoid having to directly subsidizing these events? That’s right, we’re stuck in a race to the bottom like all other industries. We now have spend a million bucks on top of subsidized hotels and event centers to earn $1.2M or whatever marginal number it may be. Meanwhile the organizers fatten their pockets. If the incentives game must be played, why not put the $5M into life sciences or something that requires more skill? I’m sick of having to subsidize entertainment I neither want nor can afford to bring my family to. Wake up people! Our schools are terrible, our roads are city streets are worse than terrible, ordinary businesses are starved for workers, the quality of low skill workers is declining and yet we’re going to spend precious taxpayer dollars on sporting events? Shame on Vaugh, Walker, Mishler, and shame on us all! Oppose this foolish idea. Only after basic government services have recovered should this even be considered. Shame!

  3. So we taxpayers are going to subsidize private companies and private organizations which want to come to Indianapolis for events? And this is on top of the heavy subsidization we already give the convention business and tourism.

    I’m so glad that my fellow Republicans who believe in limited government and capitalism and lower taxes wouldn’t support such nonsense. Wait a second…

    Seriously, any legislator supporting this nonsense should just resign. We taxpayers deserve better.