Pacers planning $20M downtown building next to fieldhouse, new plaza

The Bicentennial Unity Plaza Entertainment Center, looking west from Delaware Street. (Image courtesy of the city of Indianapolis)

The owner of the Indiana Pacers plans to develop a $20 million commercial building adjacent to Gainbridge Fieldhouse in downtown Indianapolis.

Plans call for a 30,000-square-foot building to be constructed on a surface parking lot between the arena and an existing four-story building at the southwest corner of Delaware and Maryland streets. The building would have two levels above ground and one below, with proposed uses including a basement speakeasy-style tavern, a first-floor restaurant and a second-floor event center.

Pacers Sports & Entertainment, which also owns the WNBA’s Indiana Fever and Pacers Gaming, is pursuing the development at 108 S. Delaware St. through a holding company known as Plaza Entertainment LLC.

PSE presented initial plans for the project to the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission on Wednesday and will return to the governing body in May for a vote on the development. The project must receive IHPC approval since it is in the historic Wholesale District.

Plans for the project refer to the building as the Bicentennial Unity Plaza Entertainment Complex . They show a contemporarily designed structure using light-colored brick and metal for most of the exterior. There would also be a semi-translucent glass curtain wall on part of the structure, along with composite wood panel accents. Pinstriped lights could also be incorporated into the design.

All three building levels would have about 10,000 square feet of space.

The speakeasy, which would take about 2,800 square feet in the basement, would have about 145 seats—a mix of general seating areas and private rooms. Some back-of-house operations would also be in the lower level.

The main entrance would be near the building’s southeast corner, along Delaware Street.

The restaurant would seat about 210 people inside, with additional space for another 50 people in an outdoor space overlooking the Bicentennial Unity Plaza, now under construction north of the arena.

The Bicentennial Unity Plaza Entertainment Complex would be located north of Gainbridge Fieldhouse, near the corner of Maryland and Delaware streets. (Image courtesy of the city of Indianapolis)

The event space would be able to accommodate about 300 people and have two outdoor areas—one facing the plaza and another along Delaware Street.

Tenants for the proposed building have not yet been made public. The building is expected to have one operator for the speakeasy, the restaurant and the event space. PSE intends to have a limited role in the building’s management and receive a portion of the revenue generated by each space.

Rick Fuson, PSE chief executive, told IBJ the building would give the company “another opportunity downtown that we haven’t had” by offering entertainment and event space for personal events like weddings and bar mitzvahs as well as corporate gatherings.

In addition to its sports endeavors, PSE oversees Gainbridge Fieldhouse, which hosts an annual slate of dozens of concerts and community events, but it has limited spaces for smaller events.

Fuson said the building would fit right in with the growing number of entertainment options on downtown’s east side. He said PSE studied entertainment districts near sports venues such as Chicago’s Wrigleyville and Milwaukee’s Deer District, among others, to establish a model for what could be done in Indianapolis, adding that he believes there will “be enough excitement going on inside [the fieldhouse] that we can also bring it outside.”

The west side of the Bicentennial Unity Plaza Entertainment Complex, looking east. (Image courtesy of the city of Indianapolis)

The project is complimentary to the ongoing $360 million renovation to the fieldhouse that will begin its third and final phase this summer. Much of that cost is covered by the city and the Capital Improvement Board of Marion County—part of a long-term deal struck in 2019. PSE has contributed about $65 million to the fieldhouse project so far, Fuson said.

The company initially acquired the land associated with the new building in 2019 as part of its $29.9 million purchase of the Maryland Street parking garage to make way for the plaza. The acreage was signed over to the CIB in 2021, which means PSE will use a land lease to build on the property.

The CIB last month announced the plaza will be funded through a $28.5 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. The space is expected to feature art sculptures, public restrooms, food vendor spaces and a community basketball rink that can be converted to an ice rink in the winter.

Fuson called the entertainment building a “significant investment” in downtown by the Simon family, which owns Pacers Sports & Entertainment.

“This building is being built with Simon and Pacers money,” he said. “[Indiana Pacers owner] Herb Simon is as committed to downtown as he’s ever been. He’ll often say the city and the state have done more for him than he’s ever done for them—but he’s done a lot. [With this,] he wanted to make sure that we had everything that we could possibly have in downtown Indianapolis to bring people downtown.”

PSE also bought the former DLZ building at Delaware and Maryland Streets in November 2020 for $8.4 million and renamed it the PSE Building, expanding its office operations there and establishing a temporary box office during renovations.

That building, 147 E. Maryland St., is now home to the company’s marketing, sales and digital staff, as well as meeting spaces for large internal gatherings. Most PSE executive offices and community relations remain in the nearby Ascension St. Vincent Center, 201 Delaware St.

 Fuson said he wasn’t sure if PSE would seek city-backed incentives for the project or if they were available.

“If there are potential [incentives], any developer would be foolish not to look at those opportunities,” he said. “I’m not currently aware of whatever options there may or may not be—you can never say never. But we didn’t make a decision to build this building based on anything other than the Pacers and Simon money.”

Members of the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission were generally receptive to the project during comments Wednesday night, although some expressed hope that the designs would incorporate a historic component.

“To me, I look at it and it could be anywhere in the city—there’s nothing that … ties it to its location within the historic district,” said Kevin Murray, a member of the commission. “But that’s our job. We’re supposed to be mindful of that.”

Commissioner Susan Williams suggested the building could be made slightly taller to better match the four-story building on the corner. And in reference to the entrance, she said PSE “might need to jazz it up” because it’s in an entertainment district.

The project could break ground by the end of this year, pending city approvals.

Ratio Architects is the design firm on the project and Shiel Sexton has signed on as general contractor.

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17 thoughts on “Pacers planning $20M downtown building next to fieldhouse, new plaza

  1. They live off the fat of taxpayer money. Of course they’ll seek yet another handout.

    “Fuson said he wasn’t sure if PSE would seek city-backed incentives for the project or if they were available.”

    It’s well past time for a good hard look at how much money we throw away on the Pacers and the Colts.

    1. Pat A. – While you’re at it, take a good hard look at how much money these venues bring to the city. Compared to our “peer” cities (Kansas City, Milwaukee, Columbus, Cincinnati, Louisville, et al) Indianapolis is a growing city with a vibrant downtown and hospitality industry that employees thousands of people and generates huge amounts of revenue.

      The bottom line are increases in sales taxes, income taxes, and property taxes. Take away the Pacer and Colt, and the facilities they play in, and you can kiss big concerts and large conventions goodbye. Then, just sit back and watch our city die a slow death.

      Oh, by the way, if you bought your house with borrowed money, I’ll bet you took the mortgage interest deduction on your taxes. That was a handout to you from the rest of us.

    2. Brent, while you’re at it – take a look at the costs associated with each and every event. Even stand alone from the prolonged stand alone costs associated with the construction financing. There’s a reason revenue generation studies consistently exclude that element.

    3. Brent B., sales and income taxes generated within the downtown PSDA, which was recently expanded significantly to include additional hotels and restaurants for the Fieldhouse upgrades, don’t go to the City or State. Taxes within the PSDA are diverted and fund the Fieldhouse, LOS and the Convention Center.

      There are certainly benefits to diverting these taxes to pay for the stadiums used (and controlled) by the Colts and Pacers. For example, the B10 tournaments may not come to Indy w/o the Fieldhouse remaining a state of the art arena. The HS championships in Indy are terrific. But what about the other 11 months of they year? How often is LOS used and does that justify the $750 million price tag? Are the primarily low-wage jobs of the hospitality industry worth subsidizing? Citizens and taxpayers deserve to know the facts of the funding mechanisms.

      Also, there are many cities and downtowns thriving w/o major sports teams.

    4. Comparing the tax deduction for interest in a residential mortgage to the nonstop corporate welfare the Pacers take in, is by far the dumbest thing I will read today

    5. Mike M. – You are mistaken to claim that all sales and income taxes from the downtown businesses do not go to the end up in the state’s financial coffers. The PSDA is a state-authorized area that captures sales and income taxes only from downtown hotel and the sports venues. Sales taxes collected by stand-alone restaurants and bars (i.e., those not inside a hotel or sports venue) go to the state and some of that comes back to the city. Income taxes paid by many of the 142,000 residents of Center Township who live downtown also go directly to the state, and some of those revenues are returned to the city. If the PSDA did not exist, all taxes – sales and income – would go directly to the state, with only some of it returning to the city. Lastly, I have been to many peer cities (even have lived in a few of them) and have seen their downtowns roll up the sidewalks at 6pm and turn off their lights. Evenings and weekends they are ghost towns mostly occupied by the pigeons and little else.

    6. Ah yes Loyal Subjects, continue to bicker and argue about which taxes go where and who gets too many tax breaks instead of questioning why businesses and individuals are being taxed so much in the first place.. #GotYouRightWhereTheyWantYou

  2. This privately funded project looks very nice and it complements the taxpayer funded improvements to the Fieldhouse.

    One suggestion is that they add another floor and incorporate the Skywalk between the parking garage and the Fieldhouse to connect all three structures.

  3. And of course, the taxpayers will be saddled with paying for this project, as well as the ongoing maintenance of it.
    Once again, Simon says, “screw the taxpayers!”

  4. Lol Every single time a major development happens, you get the same lame complaints of tax payers money being used to fund these projects.Did some of you not read that the Simons and Lilly pumped in millions of their own money respectfully? Listen folks, every major city Indy size or larger is ran like a Fortune 500 company.Yes its a place to live, work, play and raise a family but its also a money making machine. If your city isn’t developing and attracting new companies and providing a good jobs, schools, and entertainment, then you’ll have a dying city like Gary Indiana and other struggling metro’s
    People from Indy always complain theres nothing to do here but when they do build things to do here, people complain about tax dollars. The other crazy thing is, folks complain about Indy but go vacation to do things in another city and believe its so much better to do the something’s in another city you could do here.

    1. Who wouldn’t leap to “pump in” $65 million of their own money if it meant getting ~$300 million dollars more of government money for their project, if you were fortunate enough to have $65 million?

  5. It always interesting to see the “Boo Birds” and Nay Sayers open up. If you don’t like living in Indy, go somewhere else. Compared to other cities, Indianapolis still is growing and is a relatively nice place to be. That is why people are paying top dollar to live closer to downtown. As with anything, you are either growing and living or you are DYING!

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