Today the Indianapolis Business Journal published a story on the budget deficit facing the Capital Improvements Board, the municipal corporation which runs sports and other facilities in Indianapolis. According to the IBJ, Ballard is seeking a way to fund the shortfall without increasing the tax burden on Marion County residents.
As you might expect, Paul Ogden's, the so-called Republican taxpayer advocate, spin on it is that Greg Ballard and Bob Grand are trying to raise your taxes.
Let's be frank here: Paul Ogden is being hard-hearted and is dead wrong on this one.
The only tax the article is quoted as being raised is that tax on hotel rooms in Marion County, a tax paid by tourists and visitors. The article aslo states that Ballard would shift around existing tax revenue to make up the rest of the shortfall. Finding money in the existing budget is the sensible way to deal with deficits, one that does not raise taxes.
Ogden's real beef is 1) Bob Grand is involved, and Ogden has a visceral hatred against the attorney; and 2) Ogden's proposed solution is to renegotiate leases with the major sports tenants to have them pick up the tab. Renegotiation is also a fiscally responsible solution, but one that is neither politically tenable or realistic.
To be frank again, when a city makes the commitment to be the home of a major sports franchise, it is going to come at taxpayer expense. In terms of sheer budget numbers, municipally run stadiums cost more money than the direct tax revenue they bring in. What they do add to the community is tourist revenue and a quality of life factor, where business might be more willing to locate to a "Big League City."
Fact #2 on sports teams: Indianapolis, the crossroads of America, is within four hours of four different NFL franchises. While that may aid the development of rivalries on the field, it restricts growth potential of your fan base. An independent media market within two hours of your NFL city is normally a feeding ground for revenue growth for your franchise. But Dayton, Ohio, one such city, is in Cincinnati Bengals country and is more likely to broadcast a Cleveland Browns Game than an Indianapolis Colts game if the Bengals are not on Sunday. Indianapolis is not a naturally ideal market for an NFL franchise, but the city chose to make a comitment to having such a franchise, and that will come at a premium of public financial expense.
Fact #3: Modern sports hospitality benefits the franchises, not the municipality, in terms of ublic financing. Did the CIB under Bart Peterson give the Colts a very good sweetheart deal in leasing Lucas Oil Stadium? The enswer is an emphatic yes. But is that the type of deal a mid-major sports market like Indianapolis needs to make in order to keep such a team.? Unfortunately, the answer is also yes, given Indianapolis is a lower-tier NFL media market too close to Chicago, St. Louis, and Cincinnati.
So while Paul Ogden states that Mayor Ballard keeps falling on its sword for Bart Peterson, the more accurate description is that Indianapolis will have to keep falling on its sword to keep the Colts in Indianapolis. Despite that fact, the Ballard plan rumored to be put forward is not a bad deal for Marion County taxpayers given the circumstances.
Now, you could always argue it would be better for the Colts to leave town, but we'll let Paul Ogden make that argument. You would have to be a nutjob to get away with it.