Indianapolis' sports and convention board in coming months will head back to the negotiating table with the Indiana Pacers.
There's less than a year left in the Pacers' controversial three-year deal, struck in 2010 amid talk that the Pacers long had been losing money. The city's Capital Improvement Board agreed to pay the NBA team $30 million, in three installments, to offset the cost of operating Bankers Life Fieldhouse. It also spent $3.5 million on upgrades to the arena.
The CIB now has paid out all the money. The Pacers received the final $10 million installment Jan. 15, as spelled out in the agreement, which goes through June 30, 2013.
For the next round, the city's chief negotiator will be CIB President Ann Lathrop.
She said "hard negotiations" with the Pacers haven't begun yet, but she hopes to have a new deal hammered out before the current deal expires. Any terms are likely to meet some resistance in the City-County Council. The new majority Democrats were among the strongest critics of the 2010 pact.
The Pacers' overall tenant agreement at the fieldhouse lasts through 2019.
Indianapolis Star reporter Jon Murray and Mary Milz of WTHR-13, The Star's news-gathering partner, spoke with Lathrop last week about the coming talks. Here are excerpts.
Question: Where do you stand now, and when do you start negotiating?
Answer: I would tell you that we talk to the Pacers all the time. We're in constant communication with them. Can I tell you that hard negotiations have started? No, but we need to kind of look at the calendar and start looking at that, especially as we think about the budget and where we want to be over the next 11 months or so.
Q: Because your budget is due when?
A: Our budget will be submitted into the City-County Council towards the end of August.
Q: Don't you have to take the Pacers into account in that budget since it's going to be for the following year?
A: I think we have to consider what our options might be. You need to remember that we do have the ability and authority to go back to the council and ask for additional appropriations after the calendar year has started. And so the question is, would we want to estimate what we think might actually happen, or do we want to wait until we might actually know?
Q: What's your deadline?
A: I don't have a deadline. I really -- kind of like the last time -- I think we need to kind of really look at everything that's on the table facing the CIB.
Q: Will this be more of a long-term contract?
A: You know, I think overall (that) everybody would like to have a long-term tenant inside the building. This is one that fills the building over 60 days a year, plus all the other special events, so (a long-term deal) would be ideal at some point. But I'm not locked into it one way or the other.
Q: Are you looking at what the CIB will need from that contract at this point?
A: I think we're looking at everything we have on the table. As you know, over the last four or five years we had quite a few things and challenges that we've had -- whether it be the recession, special debt payments, a lot of different things with our new buildings. And so this is one factor that of course we look at as we look toward the future.
Q: The Pacers did really well this season in the playoffs. Does that make your job easier or harder?
A: You know, of course it makes it somewhat easier potentially, but I don't think you make these deals based on a season or how someone performs. You really have to look at the long-term impact to the city from an economic development perspective.
Q: So you'd like to have something in place before June 2013?
Q: What's your timeline look like?
A: I'm not setting myself into a false deadline. We didn't do that the last time. I think it's important that we take a look, too, ourselves, at everything on the table.
Q: Is it safe to say you're going to put the same amount of money in the budget this year that you have in years past for the Pacers?
A: I wouldn't say that.