--Patriot Paul for HFFT
Our position: State, Colts must not leave city to plug latest stadium funding gap.
Everybody knew the great civic party called Lucas Oil Stadium was going to run up a big tab. But oh, the surprise bills that keep hitting us on this long morning after.
Two years after learning that unexpected expenses had eaten two-thirds of the $50 million contingency fund for construction, and a year after learning the original $675 million cost was nowhere near reality, taxpayers this week found out the city budget for running the stadium has a hole the size of the retractable roof.
As reported by The Star's Brendan O'Shaughnessy on Wednesday, the Capital Improvement Board says extra -- that's extra -- costs of operating the now-$750 million facility may reach $20 million, not the $10 million originally projected.
The Indiana Convention Center expansion, due for completion in 2010, should help; and so may increased non-football business in Lucas. But as things stand now, the CIB's reserves are near exhaustion and dire options are being considered, including cuts in staff and arts funding. The quasi-governmental city agency, in short, is looking down the same financial gun barrels as city government -- while the party goes on.
Two other parties to this party should step up. The state, which wrested control from the city over negotiations with the Colts and built the stadium, cannot continue arguing that cost overruns for operations are the city's problem. And the team, which invested all of $50 million in the enterprise and retained all sponsorship rights as well as a cut of all gate receipts, cannot keep calling itself a mere tenant that made a deal cast in concrete.
Encouragingly, state Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, the state's key man in the affair, has offered to work with the beleaguered city in finding a way to close the latest gap, focusing on user fees as the most palatable approach. New taxes, at any level, can only be a last resort if they're not off the table entirely.
What's left? The CIB has suggested the sale of naming rights or sponsorships to the convention center. We would suggest, as we have previously, that the Colts share a portion of the revenue from stadium naming rights and sponsorships, which will exceed $20 million a year. It is, after all, the public's stadium that bears those signs, even if the (rent-free) tenant was handed the spoils.
A deal's a deal? The Colts and the state may sing that refrain all they wish, but the city's negotiators can say much the same regarding their expectations. So can the overburdened taxpayers of a city that's stuck with a management job for an eight-county region.
"It's about community," Colts owner Jim Irsay said during the inaugural festivities. "It's everyone's stadium. This is the people's stadium." In that spirit, can the local people get a break?