City leaders unanimously approve deal for Pacers

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 14, 2014 at 8:02 pm •  Published: April 14, 2014
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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Pacers' biggest win so far this season came Monday — off the court.

One day after breaking out of a slump by beating Oklahoma City and hours before Miami rested its star players, essentially ceding the top seed in the East, the city's Capital Improvement Board approved a new deal that would help the Pacers stay financially competitive in one of the NBA's smallest markets.

In exchange for providing $164 million to pay for operating costs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse over the next 10 years, the Pacers agreed to extend a lease agreement that will keep them in Indy for up to 13 more seasons. Board members voted 8-0 in favor of the deal.

"This is a major factor helping us get on solid financial ground going forward," Pacers president Jim Morris said Monday.

It's not the first time the Pacers have sought public assistance.

Three years ago, team owner Herb Simon contended that he was losing money and could not continue to afford paying $15 million in annual operating costs. The CIB stepped in and agreed to spend up to $33.5 million through 2013.

Now the quasi-government agency that runs Bankers Life Fieldhouse, home of the city's NBA team and WNBA's Indiana Fever; Lucas Oil Stadium, home to the NFL's Colts, and the city's convention center will spend in excess of $10.8 million annually over the life of the deal. The contract runs for 10 years and includes three one-year extensions with the Pacers having the option for the first of those years. The last two will be mutually agreed upon.

In return, the Pacers have agreed to stay at Bankers Life Fieldhouse and will give city leaders the "right of first offer" in the event the 79-year-old Simon dies and his heirs attempt to sell the team. The provision means the city could designate a new potential owner and that person would be able to make the first offer on the team or could match an offer from someone else.

"With this agreement, one of our city's most important facilities will get some critical upgrades and continue to be home to some of our most amazing events," board president Ann Lathrop said after the vote.

Critics argue that Simon, who is estimated to be worth more than $1 billion according to Forbes magazine, should foot the bill and that city leaders should fix roads and find more money for its understaffed police department.

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