We have pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into "sports" in Indianapolis over the past 30 years. The largesse has seemed most prolific in the past five years. One can point to the now-famed Pan Am Games in 1987 as some sort of hallmark. The flow of greenbacks began before that.
Years before the disembodied voice spoke to Kevin Costner's "Ray" in 1989's "Field of Dreams---"Build it and he will come!"---the City of Indianapolis erected an edifice to professional football, right downtown and upfront. Indianapolis was not the first city to coax---others would say "steal"---a professional sports franchise from another city. After all, in the 1950s the St. Louis Browns moved East to become the Baltimore Orioles. Indy might have been the first to do so with such a large package of goodies. We built a stadium---remember the big contest to name the place? The winner was "Hoosier Dome," chucked when the first notion of sale of rights to a corporation to name the place came to someone's mind---offered really nice tax incentives, gave the Colts' owner nifty tax incentives, and propelled the value of one of the NFL's poorer franchises into its most profitable. That title lasted only a few years. Arizona got into the act and swiped the football Cardinals from St. Louis. Not to be outdone, or to let a bad act go unaddressed, St. Louis rolled out the green---as in cash---carpet to the Rams and the second-largest television market in the country was without a franchise in a sport (professional football) tweaked for its natural place on TV.
The early days of the Colts were miserable. Colts' fans did their best to try and "play" at being pro football fans. There was a local effort to do the "terrible towels" of the Steelers. The "wave" was everyplace, so why not here? Even though they usually were 1-15 or a little better, with Bob Irsay belting down scotch and making decisions (Two first-round draft picks for Fredd Young? Somebody can get that drunk?) the City of Indianapolis had an NFL team. People talked about this as a "world-class city."
Almost forgotten were the lowly Indiana Pacers. They played a sport that resonates in the genes of anyone born North of the Ohio, south of Michigan, and in-between Illinois and Ohio. Sure, they won three ABA championships---then gasped and sputtered in the NBA. There even was a fundraiser---a la Jerry Lewis's telethon for kids with really bad conditions---to save our professional basketball franchise.
The Colts began to win. As they did, they wanted Indy to "pony up" (pun intended) more money. They also wanted a new football stadium. The old one did not have enough seats for rich people (club seats) and the Colts wanted ALL the revenue from anything staged in a new structure. The Colts also wanted to be paid for the fact they no longer would be able to use the Hoosier (I refuse to use the corporate name) Dome. Land was purchased. Documents were signed. A Super Bowl was won. And hey---if we didn't give the Colts what they wanted, Los Angeles always was there to offer a really good deal in the second-largest television market in the United States. (Irony: Bob Irsay once owned the L.A. Rams and traded them for the Baltimore Colts.)
The Pacers got to the NBA Finals! They wanted money, too. After all, the economy had changed and malls, the means by which the pacers' owners had made their billions, no longer were the focus of people's shopping. So Indy built for the Pacers a new arena. All of the proceeds of any event---related to a Pacers game or not---would go to the Pacers. And the City of Indianapolis would pay the overhead. What a great deal! Your landlord gives you your apartment rent-free, pays for all the utilities and the full-boat on cable, plus pays for the beer whenever you throw a party!
Indianapolis is in debt. Police cannot answer a call as quickly as they should because there are too few police. The Mayor has spent as much time directing money to political pals as he has traveling overseas. Local politicians discovered Tax Increment Financing---"TIFs"---a funding mechanism that has wrecked other cities and is outlawed in California, where it was created. The City sells off capital assets like the beggar in a Monty Python movie sold his feet---chopped off and sold to pay for a meal; only question is, how does one finance the next meal? Cut off the hands?---so that money can be used to pay more political pals. In the meantime, the streets go to hell. Our schools become worse.
The corruption probably is not illegal. If it is done outfront and open, and occurs when a person makes a legal political campaign contribution, it still can be corrupt, "without integrity." Broad Ripple becomes "congested as bumper-to-bumper traffic is created BY DESIGN.
People should go ahead and watch the games. They have paid for them. Their children will pay for them. Their children will pay for them. The Colts or Pacers might move---and the next generations will continue to pay for those franchises. At least people should get the pleasure while they can---even if the view is not from a club seat or a suite, but from a living room chair. Of course, once the NFL goes pay-per-view, people will have to pay again for the same pleasure.
We need to vote out of office the people who have put us in this mess.