Roundup: Hosting NBA All-Star game carries high costs; sponsors eye Pacers esports team

As central Indiana deals with its first arctic blast, sports-business news continues to descend in blizzard-like fashion. So make sure you’ve got your snow tires on and buckle up:

Pacers, city facing considerable costs to host NBA All-Star Game

While the economic impact for the 2021 All-Star weekend could easily top $100 million, the expenses are considerable, too.

The 2021 NBA All-Star Game will be held at the 18,165-seat Bankers Life Fieldhouse, a source has confirmed to IBJ. Pacers and NBA officials are expected to make the announcement late Wednesday afternoon.

The ancillary events—such as the celebrity game, D-League All-Star Game and slam dunk and three-point shooting contests—will be held in Lucas Oil Stadium, which will use the half-stadium configuration that NCAA regional games have used in the past. It typically can seat up to 45,000 spectators.

The Pacers will face expenses of around $10 million in the two- to three-year run-up to the all-star game, a sports business consultant familiar with the NBA All-Star Game operations told IBJ.

Soft costs, such as time-consuming demands on team staff, could run the bill even higher. 

“I wouldn’t underestimate the distraction this event will have on the entire [host] team’s staff,” said Marc Ganis, president of Sportscorp Ltd., a Chicago-based sports business consultancy that does work for the NFL, NBA and several of their teams. “It can be all-consuming … for multiple years.”

The team also would be on the hook for building modifications—some temporary and some that could be permanent—required by the NBA, Ganis said. We might learn more about that Wednesday afternoon. The announcement at Bankers Life Fieldhouse is set for 4 p.m.

The city could chip in for those modifications and other items, while likely incurring several million dollars in expenses for responsibilities such as security and fire protection, traffic control and free rent for facilities such as the Indiana Convention Center. 

A block of 6,000 available hotel rooms is required. That shouldn’t be a huge problem for Indianapolis, which has 7,300 downtown hotel rooms, with nearly 5,000 connected to the convention center and Lucas Oil Stadium via indoor skywalks.

Visit Indy officials said they didn't have to move any other conventions or turn them away due to hosting the all-star game. "We deliberately, as a community, targeted 2021, as we had clean dates," said Visit Indy Vice President Chris Gahl.

Indiana Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn previously told IBJ the All-Star Game would likely require 3,000 volunteers—similar to the number needed for an NCAA men’s Final Four—and would require forming a local organizing committee two to three years out. He had no doubt, however, that the effort is worth the price.

“The city and its businesses get a solid payoff,” Ganis said. “For the team, the payoff is increasing the strength of their brand, which does of course help with sponsors and season-ticket holders.”

The team also can offer some inside access to the game and surrounding events to season-ticket holders and sponsors, Ganis said, which could help the team’s overall sales. But another source familiar with All-Star Game operations said the home team might get as few as 1,000 to 3,000 tickets to the game, with the NBA taking the vast majority of ticket inventory for league and team executives, corporate sponsors and broadcast partners.

Pacers esports sponsors to get intriguing play

As the start of the NBA's first esports basketball league nears its May tip-off, we’re starting to get a better idea of what this league will look like—and how it will operate from a business standpoint.

Initially, there won’t be much money from ticket sales in the NBA 2K League. The games in the first season will be played at neutral sites. None will be played at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, despite the fact that the Indiana Pacers are launching one of 17 teams for the inaugural season of the NBA-backed league.

Instead, Kelly Krauskopf, the head of Pacers Gaming, said most of the money—at least initially—will be generated through sponsorships. That’s the way esports have traditionally been monetized, she explained. 

“We’ve had a significant amount of interest,” Krauskopf said at a press conference Tuesday to unveil the team’s name and logo. 

Sponsors of Pacers Gaming could have a presence in the team’s training center, which is in the design and construction phase. At some point, if the Pacers have a home esports venue, sponsors could get a presence there. But the biggest presence for sponsors could be the virtual arena.

Krauskopf explained that sponsors could have signage inside the video game being played on the screen.

Remember, this is not going to be an off-the-shelf 2K hoops game. The avatars will be custom-created to suit the human players manipulating the controls, and one could assume the virtual venues will be custom-created as well to feature team sponsors.

As one of my 50-something-year-old editors asked on Tuesday before the press conference: “Does anybody care about this?” Certain sponsors probably will, depending on the price points.

About 500 million people watch esports competitions regularly. One-off esports competitions have brought in nearly 50 million unique viewers through the internet.

The reach is global, as Pacers spokesman Eddie White emphasized several times during Tuesday’s press conference, which means most of the sponsors are going to be those looking for global reach. 

It might not make sense for traditional Pacers sponsors such as Kroger, The Indianapolis Star or St. Vincent Sports Performance to jump into sponsoring the franchise’s esports team. Sponsors will more likely be global brands like Coke and Gatorade and possibly local companies looking to sell goods to a wider audience through the internet.

How much the players will be paid to play in this new league is still being determined, Krauskopf said.

Helmet maker Bell opening Speedway shop

Safety gear manufacturer Bell Racing USA announced this week that the company is opening an office in January located on Main Street in Speedway, a stone’s throw from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“Speedway is the racing capital of the world, and it only makes sense for Bell to have a presence here,” Jacob Blasdel, Speedway town manager, said in a statement. “Locating in Speedway will give Bell Racing USA better access to thousands of racers and racing enthusiasts—from dirt tracks to the hallowed grounds of IMS.”

The new office is slated to open by the end of January and will serve as the home office for the racing department, custom shop and the marketing and communications department. The shop will also offer retail sales of helmets and apparel for walk-in customers and Indianapolis-based athletes beginning in March 2018.

“Bell’s new Indy Pro Store offers the perfect location to coordinate our athlete support and social media marketing programs, allowing us to provide a higher level of service with direct access to championship race teams, professional drivers and Indianapolis-based racers,” said Bell Racing USA President and COO Kyle Kietzmann. 

Victory Field to host Hoosiers, Fighting Irish in April

The Indiana University Hoosiers have played a game in downtown Indy's baseball stadium each of the last three seasons, including games versus Notre Dame's Fighting Irish in 2015 and 2016 with the schools splitting those two meetings. 

Indiana defeated Ball State at Victory Field last season.

A third IU-Notre Dame game is now scheduled for 7 p.m., April 17. Gate will open at 5:30 p.m.

Tickets go on sale for the game Feb. 5.

Indiana Sports Corp. honors WISH-TV’s Calhoun

Indiana Sports Corp will present the 2017 Indiana Pathfinder Award on Thursday to WISH-TV Channel 8 Sports Director Anthony Calhoun.

The Pathfinder Award, presented annually since 1988, honors individuals on a local and national level who have demonstrated a commitment to improving the lives of America’s youth. Calhoun will be recognized at the Indiana Roof Ballroom during the State of Sports event.

“We are pleased to honor our friend Anthony Calhoun for his longstanding commitment to the Indianapolis community and most importantly our youth,” ISC President Ryan Vaughn said in a statement. “For decades, A.C. has taken pride in representing Indianapolis and giving back through charitable contributions, which make him an outstanding choice to join our list of Indiana Pathfinder Award recipients.”

An Emmy Award winner and Evansville native, Calhoun is a familiar face throughout the Indianapolis community. As the sports director at WISH-TV, Calhoun is routinely on air with daily reporting and anchoring duties. He also is seen on his "SportsLocker" show and "Countdown to Kickoff," a Colts pre-game show.

Prior to joining WISH-TV in 1998, Calhoun worked as weekend sports anchor and reporter at WTVH-TV, in Syracuse, New York. He also has served as a play-by-play announcer for NCAA basketball on ESPN and as the voice of Butler basketball on WNDY-TV Channel 10.

The AC Charity Golf Classic has raised more than $1 million to promote excellence in inner-city youth education.

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