INDIANAPOLIS — City officials are looking into whether it would be more financially beneficial to hire an outside company to run Bankers Life Fieldhouse downtown where the Indiana Pacers play instead of allowing the NBA team to do so.
“We’re going to look at taking it over to see if it makes more sense for us,” Mayor Greg Ballard tells the Indianapolis Business Journal.
The Indiana Pacers have been running the 18,165-seat basketball arena since it opened in 1999, and the city recently agreed to pay $10 million to help Pacers Sports & Entertainment run the venue for another year. Experts differ on whether it’s a good deal for the city.
Andrew Zimbalist, a Smith College professor who studies sports economics, said the Pacers are getting a “spectacularly generous” deal in keeping all revenue, paying no long-term expenses and getting another $10 million. He said the city should be able to do better.
But Mark Rosentraub, a University of Michigan sports management professor, said being the smallest market to host two major professional sports teams in a venue the competes with more modern facilities in other Midwestern cities could be a challenge.
“You ought to expect these facilities are not doing as well as you would like,” he said.
PS&E President Jim Morris wouldn’t say whether he would be open to giving up management. But he said he believes the Pacers have done a “superb job” operating the venue. He said the money from the city goes toward expenses, such as utilities, insurance, security and maintenance.
Morris estimates it costs the Pacers about $15 million a year to operate the building.
The city considered changing management at the facility three years ago, but Ballard decided there were too many other projects in the works such as planning a Super Bowl and expanding the civic center to go ahead with the plan.