THE COST TO MARION COUNTY TAXPAYERS OF THE INDIANAPOLIS COLTS’ NEW STADIUM TOY

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Everything has its price, and the cost of the Indianapolis Colts’ new Lucas Oil Stadium portends to be exorbitant for the taxpayers of Marion County, where Indianapolis is situated. But the cost is genteelly hidden, so the taxpayers are liable to overlook what this new toy for the Colts is going to cost them. This is the new football arena the Colts insisted had to be built for them by public funds, or else they’d leave. All the more reason to call it by what it really is—the Extortion Dome. Being built right next to the old, supposedly inadequate Hoosier Dome, which is being torn down while the taxpayers (who were called upon to build it also) still owe $75 million on it. Ooh boy—I keep forgetting, that was the RCA Dome, having been renamed so that a major corporation could get free advertising just for paying a few million dollars to post its logo on it.

But Marion County taxpayers, absorbed as they were by the property tax increase crunch, probably overlooked the crunch in the Marion County income tax rate, from a rate of .0085 per dollar of income to .011125 per dollar, a whopping 30.88% increase specially mandated by the Indiana General Assembly last year to pay for the Extortion—pardon me, Lucas Oil—Stadium. Lucas Oil got off easy, of course, only having to shell out $2 million for the naming rights. Happy April 15th, sucker!

This same Indiana General Assembly also passed the “option” for Marion and adjoining counties to raise the sales tax rate on restaurant food and beverage by 1%, which Marion County did, naturally. That restaurant sales tax did stand at 8%, a 33.333…%, or 1/3, increase over the former overall sales tax rate of 6%. But that was when I originally wrote this, for the Indiana sales tax rate was raised on April 1, 2008 to 7%, which makes the restaurant tax rate now 9%. And that, by the way, is still a hefty 28.57% added onto restaurant food & beverages.

“Wait a minute,” I hear you say, “that’s two percentage points over the normal sales tax rate, not one percentage point.” True enough, but the other one percentage point on restaurant food and beverages was added a few decades earlier to construct Market Square Arena and never repealed, although the site of now torn-down Market Square Arena is a parking lot. But, lest we forget, Market Square Arena was torn down because the Indiana Pacers insisted on a new venue for their basketball games, or else they’d leave Indy too.

And not only that. There are crunches in the operating costs as well. According to the February 27, 2008 Indianapolis Star, not only will the electricity bill and other operating costs for the new Dome be $10 million a year more than anticipated, but the electricity demand when the Stadium is being used will be so great that other parts of Indianapolis face possible electricity blackouts. Put that into your HDTV and smoke it, Indianapolis taxpayer, while you’re trying to watch the Colts game!

And, of course, the Extortion—oops, Lucas Oil Stadium--is a private franchise, not a public one, just like the Pacers’ Conseco Field House. And literally a playground only for the rich. Not just for the $1500 per season luxury suites, but even for ordinary tickets, which are far beyond the means of the average Indianapolis family. And that same 2007 Indiana General Assembly that gave so generously also voted down a provision in the authorization bill that would’ve mandated the availability of a certain number of inexpensive seats at Colts home games for lower-income patrons. But wait, there’s more on this, for the Indianapolis Star did a survey of Colts ticketholders in the fall of 2007 and found that the average ticket-holding Colts fan was a 47-year-old white male who is a Republican or Republican-leaning independent and makes $76,000 a year. Sheesh! A typical unionized autoworker in Indianapolis, undoubtedly also a Colts fan, only makes $60,000 a year.

So think on this, dear Indy reader, as you prepare your Indiana income tax form, or when you and your family next eat out at a restaurant. But isn’t Tony Dungy, Peyton Manning & Co. worth it? True, the Colts did win Super Bowl XLI in 2007, and Indianapolis, buoyed with the possibilities inherent in the new Stadium Toy, now has the berth for the Super Bowl in 2012. But the Colts lost early in the playoffs in 2008, just as they had earlier for years, and the last previous time the Colts won a Super Bowl was in Super Bowl V in 1971, when they were the Baltimore Colts. So the Colts and their new Extortion Toy just seem a little bit too pricey for me, a taxpayer in Marion County. But the Colts did say they’d leave if they didn’t get their new Dome Toy, right? Well, maybe we should’ve just said, “Go right ahead! Why don’t you even leave Indianapolis the same way you left Baltimore—sneaking out shortly after midnight, under cover of darkness!”