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Deal between Pacers, city keeps team in Indianapolis

Posted Jul 12 2010 11:06AM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Indianapolis officials and the Indiana Pacers have reached a deal to keep the team at Conseco Fieldhouse for the next three seasons while the city pays $10 million a year for running the arena.

The city's Capital Improvement Board also will pay for a minimum of $3.5 million in fieldhouse improvements, said Robert Vane, a spokesman for Mayor Greg Ballard.

If the Pacers choose to leave Indianapolis after the three seasons, they would have to repay at least $30 million. That amount will decrease for each season they continue to play at Conseco.

The new agreement is an addition to the existing contract, which runs until 2019 and includes other fees if the Pacers decide to leave early.

The Pacers have sought to renegotiate their arena lease, saying the franchise has spent at least $15 million a year in operating costs. Pacers spokesman David Benner said the team had no immediate comment on the deal, first reported Monday by The Indianapolis Star.

Vane said the deal is a good one because the city would have to pay up to $20 million a year to run the 11-year-old Conseco Fieldhouse if the Pacers left.

"You'd be paying for it anyway," he said. "The building's not going anywhere. If the Pacers leave, you have an empty building."

The Pacers also help the city's economy and provide about 1,000 jobs related to the team, he said. A study in May concluded that Indianapolis businesses would lose $55 million if the Pacers left town.

Vane also said the Capital Improvement Board -- which made deep budget cuts since the 2008 opening of Lucas Oil Stadium and captured more sales and income taxes from an expanded sports tax district -- can handle the new expenses without any new tax increases.

Critics characterized the deal as a bailout of the professional sports team and Herb Simon, its billionaire owner.

Simon has maintained that he wants the team to remain in Indiana. The Pacers were losing money when they were successful, and poor performance hasn't helped. Indiana finished with a 32-50 record last season, their worst record since 1988-89, and missed the playoffs for the fourth straight year.

The Pacers ranked 27th in the 30-team league this season with average attendance of 14,202.

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