One of the worst things in sports is when a city loses its franchise. It'd be like if LeBron James(notes) left Cleveland to play with his best friends in Florida, but only multiplied exactly 78 times. Yes, the results can be OK — wassup, Oklahoma City Thunder — but the damage to the city that's been left is so severe that documentaries about the franchise leaving are almost always made, and they're not fun documentaries like "Grizzly Man." Even worse is when that franchise is integral to the culture of the city and the state where they play.
That's exactly what the Indiana Pacers are to the Hoosier State. Basketball is so ingrained in Indiana that the loss of its professional basketball team would be unthinkable, but as of late, that has been a very real possibility. Thankfully, the Pacers have reached an agreement with the city of Indianapolis to remain there for at least three years. From the Indianapolis Star's Francesca Jarosz and Heather Gillers:
The Indiana Pacers are staying in Indianapolis, but it will cost taxpayers at least $33.5 million over the next three years.
The city and the Pacers are expected today to announce an agreement hailed by some as an important step in protecting the financial state of the city but criticized by others as a multimillion-dollar bailout of a professional sports team and its billionaire owner.
Good thing Indianans love basketball so much since they're going to be paying quite a few dollars to keep their team around. But at least the Pacers will be around for at least another three years, for sure. If they leave before then, they're on the hook for $30 million, and if they leave before their contract with the group operating the stadium expires in 2019, they owe a portion of that money.
While the plan isn't necessarily being praised by the people of the city — some have called it "sports welfare" — as basketball fans we should be happy that a team who's been in the NBA for 34 years is staying put. Furthermore, according to city officials, the Pacers have an economic impact of about $55 million in Indianapolis, plus they provide more than 900 jobs. So $30 million over three years almost seems like a bargain considering the Pacers' importance, and that's before considering how deeply the team is tied in to the city. One fan told the Star "I don't know what I'd do without them."
Now all the Pacers have got to do is figure out how to get some of those fans to come to games, because ranking fourth from last in average attendance isn't very good. Considering how beautiful the stadium is, I'd surmise what's keeping them away is the on-court product.