NBA lockout takes a toll on Indianapolis' economy

Joakim Noah #13 of the Chicago Bulls and Roy Hibbert #55 of the Indiana Pacers leap for the ball during the tip-off of Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at Conseco Fieldhouse on April 23, 2011 in Indianapolis, Ind.

Steve Chiotakis: Today would have been the first day of the NBA season. But a continued lockout between owners and the players' union, has a month of games already cancelled. The full season is in jeopardy, and a couple of cities in the league are threatening to sue because of economic repercussions. Memphis, for one.

From Indianapolis, Brandon Smith from Indiana Public Broadcasting reports a lost NBA season could really dribble down through basketball mad Indy.


Brandon Smith: Walk through the revolving door of the Conrad Hotel in downtown Indianapolis and you can see why millionaire basketball players would want to stay there. From the gleaming chandeliers to the marble floors, the place looks pure luxury. General manager Greg Tinsley says the hotel has contracts with 23 of the 29 NBA franchises that come to play the Indiana Pacers.

Greg Tinsley: It's 35 to 40 rooms per each of those visiting teams. And some of the West Coast teams -- and others, depending on where their next stop is -- some of them stay actually two nights.

Tinsley says the Conrad stands to lose a half million dollars if the entire season is canceled. And that'd would be just part of the financial toll. A real estate consulting firm crunched the numbers and found Indianapolis and Indiana as a whole could lose $55 million if the Pacers' uniforms stay hanging in their lockers. That figure takes into account lost tax revenue, as well as spending in restaurants, bars and hotels.

And there's the image problem. Chris Gahl is the spokesman for the Indianapolis Convention and Visitor's Association. He says losing the Pacers for a year hurts the city's tourism marketing strategy.

Chris Gahl: There's a real allure when you're in the business of marketing the city, like we are, to having a thriving professional sports team in your landscape.

Indianapolis has a lot invested in the Pacers. The Capital Improvement Board is the public agency that owns Conseco Field House, where the Pacers play. Last year, CIB loaned the Pacers $33.5 million over three years to help keep the team in Indianapolis. The loan will continue to go through regardless of whether the Pacers play this year. On top of that, the agency would lose $1.5 million in Pacer-related tax revenue if the season is scrapped. Dan Huge is the CIB's chief financial officer.

Dan Huge: We won't be able to make up for that lost revenue, but we'll be able to figure out how to work through it.

With the NFL's Indianapolis Colts off to an O-7 start, the Indy sports landscape is already pretty grim. And for a city and state steeped in basketball tradition, the loss of an NBA season makes the winter ahead look even grayer.

In Indianapolis, I'm Brandon Smith for Marketplace.

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