Since there is so little out there where the Mayor answers a question about the CIB publicly, I thought I would make a transcript for people to read. You can check out the video here. The question is about 54 minutes in.
Marshall: “There have been recent news that the Pacers have had a difficult time paying their bills, how do you see the situation resolving?"The Mayor's response is so disingenuous, I don't know where to start. The question concerned whether the city is to turn over $15 million more to the Pacers. Ballard dodged it, then lumped in the issue of public support for professional sports into the convention business. No one argues that convention business is not profitable for the city. People from outside of Indianapolis travel to the city to spend their money. That's not the same with professional sports. The fans are from the central Indianapolis area. The money they spend is simply money that would have been spent someplace else, going out to dinner, a movie, etc. There is no net gain. The academic studies do not show spending taxpayer money on professional sports teams is a good investment for a city. Some studies even show that professional sports teams have a negative impact on the local economy. But academic studies do not slow down the advocates of giving more of our hard earned money to billionaire sports owners. They just ignore them.
Mayor Ballard: “The CIB and the Pacers, this is not about the Pacers. And this is not about the Colts. This is about downtown. Pacers and Colts are players in the story but they are not the protagonists, here. Downtown is the protagonist. People have been working for 30 or 40 years to make the downtown what it is and there is a reason for that. People talk about life sciences, they talk about advanced manufacturing, they talk about motor sports, they talk about logistics, they talk about technology, they talk about all of that. But what they leave out of this is the convention business, which is really one of our industry clusters also. Well over $3 billion a year. A lot of money. Downtown was planned a certain way a long time ago and conscious decisions were made to get to a certain point.
And don’t look at downtown as a neighborhood. Downtown is an economic engine for the city and it is a HUGE economic engine for the state. That’s what it is. Okay, so if you think the care and feeding of downtown has been too much, I would disagree because over the 30 or 40 years, that’s a HUGE economic engine. People know Indianapolis, people come to Indianapolis, because of our downtown. Conventions come to Indianapolis and spend money, not your money, their money, and they help you, because of the downtown of Indianapolis, because they can bring their convention here and walk around. The NFL combine comes in here specifically ever year and spends a load of money because they don’t have to drive 30 miles to a stadium and then 40 miles to a restaurant, it is all right downtown and they spend a lot of money and it helps you, it helps the state, so that’s the short version of
And I’m very candid about this, we do not want to set up a row of dominoes in downtown Indianapolis and then just have them all go down. We are in an economic downturn right now. If we start saying, oh those guys over here or these guys over here, forgetting the bigger picture which is downtown, HUGE economic engine for Indianapolis, HUGE convention business, one of the big, big drivers of money into the city. You know that just being mad at this team over hear or this team over there, that’s not really the story. That’s not really the story. Downtown was planned a long time ago a certain way to be a HUGE economic engine and it is, and it is. The tax dollars that the State receives out of there is big and the city gets a fair chunk of change out of it also.
That’s what is happening. So some care and feeding needs to go downtown, I don’t think there’s any question about that. That’s like asking Eli Lilly to not have much land, why? You want them to grow jobs, right? You want that to happen and that’s what’s happening. There is 66,000 hospitality workers in central Indiana, 66,000 and that is based mostly on our convention business. And we do not want to set up a row of dominoes to knock that down because we’re going to pay a price for a long, long time if we do that.
See: The Pacers, Colts and the Impact of Professional Sports on Local Economies (3/15/2009)
Mayor Ballard says with a straight face that the financial crisis the CIB is in has nothing to do with the Colts or Pacers. Again, a dishonest answer. The CIB is in a financial hole because of the sweetheart deal it gave to the Colts over the Lucas Oil Stadium. That triggered the Pacers to also ask for a similar sweetheart deal for Conseco. At some point, we need a mayor who will stand up for taxpayers against these wealthy sports owners who think they are entitled to yet more of our money. Mayor Ballard sent a clear message at the Washington Township Mayor's Night out that he is not that mayor and he is no friend of taxpayers.