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The Score - Anthony Schoettle

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Sports Business

Indians, Pacers and Colts attendance is only part of story

July 29, 2010
KEYWORDS Sports Business

Several IBJ readers recently asked about the economic impact of the Indiana Pacers. One wanted a comparison between the Pacers and Indianapolis Indians.

The city recently commissioned a study—done by Chicago area consultant Rob Hunden—which found that the Pacers have $55 million annual economic impact on Indianapolis.

Mayor Greg Ballard used that economic impact as justification for paying $33.5 million over the next three years for Conseco Fieldhouse operations expenses as well as $3.5 million in capital improvements.

The reason the comparison is interesting is because the Pacers and Indians bring about the same number of people downtown each year. Last year, the Pacers total attendance for 41 regular season games was 582,295.

For 72 home games, the Indians are on target to draw near 600,000 this season. Last year, the team drew about 550,000 fans to the home games despite lots of rain. In 2008, the team drew 606,166.

The other reason the comparison is interesting is because the Indians pay to play in Victory Field and pay for all the upkeep of the place to boot.

The Indians too commissioned an economic impact study—in 2007. That study—done by Strategic Marketing and Research Inc.—found that the Indians brought $28 million in spending downtown annually.

So why the disparity?

To be fair, I’m not sure we’re comparing apples to apples here. But it is interesting to ponder.

First, Pacers tickets—even at a discount—cost much more than Indians tickets, and that’s a big part of any team’s economic impact. Second, Indians fans seated on the lawn can bring in their own picnic baskets. So that hurts concession sales. And food on the whole at Victory Field is a bit cheaper than at Conseco Fieldhouse.

Corporate hospitality, though it’s down for Pacers games, is probably still a bit higher than it is for the Indians. Certainly, when the Pacers were leading the Eastern Division, corporate hospitality at Pacers games is easily quadruple what it is at Indians games, and probably a lot more than that.

Even with all that, you’d still have to presume that Pacers fans are spending $20 million more annually outside the playing venue, presumably at bars and restaurants and the occasional hotel. I’m assuming traveling NBA teams stay at slightly nicer hotels than do AAA minor league baseball clubs.

In anticipation of the next question; The Colts draw about 560,000 for eight regular season games at Lucas Oil Stadium.

With respect to attendance, we’re only talking regular season here. The Colts have two heavily attended pre-season games and the Pacers have a slate of pre-season games as well, which the Indians do not have.

And if the Pacers and Colts can host a round of the playoffs, there’s a big payoff which the Indians wouldn’t enjoy.

Naturally, city leaders will say all three teams are important to creating a vibrant city. But city taxpayers who help fund the venues have a right to ask where the value for each team sits.

Do the Indians draw as many people downtown as the Pacers and Colts? Yes. Money, though, is another kettle of fish.

As for the value that each team brings the city, that’s another debate entirely.
 

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