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Bill to Keep Indy a Sports and Convention Hub Heads to Governor

Funds go to $36M renovation of Bankers Life; $150M soccer stadium

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Greg Taylor

Legislation to keep the Indiana Pacers from moving and help finance a new soccer stadium is on its way to Gov. Eric Holcomb.

Senate Bill 7, which also gives millions to the cash-strapped Marion County Capital Improvement Board, passed its final hurdle Tuesday as the Senate voted 44-4 to concur with changes made in the House and clear the way for Holcomb to decide if he’ll sign it into law.

Sen. Greg Taylor, an Indianapolis Democrat, urged passage of the bill saying the economic impact in this city of keeping an NBA team helps the state.

“This is Downtown Indianapolis locations, but the effects are felt across the state,” he said. “Basketball is not Indiana, Indiana is basketball.”

The bill, authored by Sen. Ryan Mishler, the Bremen Republican who is chairman of the budget-writing Senate Appropriations Committee, does not create new taxes. But it does extend the expiration date for some admissions and auto rental taxes to 2040, and expands the Professional Sports Development Area that currently includes most of Downtown Indianapolis in order to capture more income and sales tax revenues from additional hotels.

The funds will go toward a $360 million renovation of Bankers Life Fieldhouse, where the Indiana Pacers play their NBA home games, and a $150 million soccer stadium for the Indy Eleven.

The funding plan in the legislation, which also includes loans from the state, was the final piece needed in the 25-year deal the CIB had approved earlier this month to keep the Pacers in Indiana.

The bill also allows tax revenues to be diverted for up to 32 years to pay off bonds for a 20,000-seat stadium for the Indy Eleven. It would be part of a $550-million, mixed-use project dubbed Eleven Park, though no location has yet been announced.

Sen. Jim Merritt, an Indianapolis Republican now running for mayor of this city, said athletics and convention business is vital to the city.

“This is the hub, this is the heartbeat of Indianapolis,” said Merritt. “This is all about growing Indianapolis.”

And his Democratic opponent, incumbent Mayor Joe Hogsett, agreed, saying in a statement that the legislation “protects Hoosier taxpayers and preserves this key economic engine for the next generation of Indiana residents.”

But not every legislator from Indianapolis applauded the bill. Sen. Mike Young, R-Indianapolis, was one of four Republicans to vote against the bill, and argued that it was a “bail-out” of the CIB.

“They were spending money more than they took in,” said Young. “They were just mismanaging the money over there; they were not good operators.”

And he warned that the taxes would never sunset. “This is going to go on forever,” Young said.

Sen. Ron Alting, R-Lafayette, argued, though, that the measure “is good for the entire state.”

After the vote, Kevin Brinegar, chief executive officer of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, echoed Alting’s words, saying that “pro sports play a key role in helping attract other economic development and revenue to the Indy area.”

Andrew Longstreth is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

TheStatehouseFile.com is a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.