The Star's editorial board has taken a hard stance on the CIB / Pacers negotiation.
And by "hard" I mean anti-Pacers.
Extreme situations call for extreme measures, and the Capital Improvement Board certainly has taken them. Can its prize tenant say the same?
Facing a deficit of $47 million last year, the quasi-governmental body that owns Conseco Fieldhouse and operates Lucas Oil Stadium pulled out all the stops.
In partnership with the mayor's office, the CIB petitioned the legislature for new ways to raise local taxes and for a state loan. It also slashed $33.5 million from its budget, sacrificing arts and cultural programs as well as employees. Not all of those cuts can be made permanent, so the problems remain.
How, then, can the city justify publicly laying out $15.4 million for the Indiana Pacers, who indicate no intention of taking a hit in return?
Even granting that we would hate to lose the Pacers and the CIB would have to finance operation of Conseco Fieldhouse if they were to leave, this is a strange way to go about making a deal.
The Pacers' ownership won't even say how much "help" it needs with the operating cost of Conseco, which the team agreed to take on a decade ago in exchange for a free $180 million palace. For the city, in the person of CIB member Paul Okeson, to tell the world it is "seriously thinking about" shouldering the entire $15.4 million while the Pacers say they'll think about it is mindboggling. The city isn't even ruling out letting the team continue to rake in proceeds from non-Pacer events.
The Pacers have a contractual right to renegotiate the operating expense issue, but how is this negotiation? Where is the "give" from the other side?
Forgive us our dredging up of the proposed library closings, the teacher layoffs and the disintegrating streets, but even part of the $15.4 million would be too much to ask of taxpayers. For the business that uses this public building to offer none of the sum in question is a rank insult.
Owner Herb Simon says he has lost $200 million in 27 years on the franchise. The taxpayers are not responsible for that. Nor should the taxpayers begrudge the fact that Simon Property Group was able to offer $2.5 billion for a bankrupt shopping mall company just this week.
The Pacers are part of a business empire at whose capabilities the people of Indianapolis can only guess. They might guess that Simon could sell the team, if it is an intolerable burden, to someone who would keep it here.
They also might guess that the team can spare more than the people can in the current crisis. They don't have to guess how the game is going so far.