Pacer Legends to Kick Off Holiday Weekend at Hoosier Park

The basketball world is buzzing about the Indiana Pacers right now. Sure, the first game of the Eastern Conference Finals Wednesday resulted in a disappointing overtime loss, but it's clear the defending champion Miami Heat realize they will have their hands full (for the second year in a row) with the scrappy squad from Hoosier country. Although, it should be noted that the Pacers have had many successful years. If you'd like to meet some legends from the franchise's distant and recent past, head over to Hoosier Park in Anderson tonight. See details below:

Ten of the Pacers’ more recognizable names from the past 40 years are slated to make a joint-appearance at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino on Friday, May 24 to kick off the start of Memorial Day weekend live racing. This group of past ABA and NBA Pacers will sign autographs and pose for pictures with fans starting at 7 p.m. in the Hoosier Park Terrace. The event is free and open to the public.

The Pacers’ legends scheduled to appear:

• Rik Smits (1988 – 2000, Center)
• Bobby ‘Slick’ Leonard (1968 – 1980, Head Coach)
• Mel Daniels (1968 – 1974, Center, NBA Hall of Fame Member)
• Derrick McKey (1993 – 2001, Forward/Center)
• Don Buse (1972 – 1977, Point Guard)
• Billy Keller (1969 – 1976, Guard)
• George McGinnis (1971 – 1975, Power Forward/Center)
• Bob Netolicky (1967 – 1976, Forward/Center)
• Bill Newton (1972 – 1974, Center)
• Darnell Hillman (1971 – 1976, Forward/Center)

On Saturday, May 25, Hoosier Park’s signature race – the $200,000 Dan Patch Invitational – will welcome the top rated horses in North America for its 20th running. The 2013 installment will tout some of the best horses, trainers, and drivers in the sport. Lining up behind the gate will be the likes of North American Cup Winner, Up The Credit, Meadowlands Pace champion, A Rocknroll Dance, and 2012’s Dan Patch victor, Rockin Cam.

Several activities will complement the Dan Patch Invitational pace, including Indiana sire stakes action, property-wide dining specials, and special wagering opportunities. Guests can also take part in Xtreme hot air balloon and helicopter rides over the racetrack. To close out Saturday night’s live racing card, a free fireworks display starts at approximately 10:30 p.m. At the conclusion of the free fireworks display, a Celebrity Driver charity kayak race and the Hoosier Idol All-In grand finale singing competition begins.

IBJ: Changes at Speedway Help Businesses, Bottom Line

The Indianapolis Business Journal’s blog, The Score, posted an interesting piece today, contending the many changes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway have things moving in the right direction. Among those, its focus on giving more value and opportunity to its corporate partners is targeted as a momentum shifter. What’s more, it mentions that our former chairman, Andre Lacy, is now playing a prominent role on the Speedway’s board.

We’re excited to see IMS racing toward a bright future — not just because it’s an Indiana Chamber member, but because it’s such an instrumental figure in the history and future of our great state. IBJ writes:

Tony George is no longer head of the operation. But he is on the board. This is a board that has in recent years decided to significantly expand itself beyond familial borders.

Shortly after George was replaced by Belskus in 2009, several board members were added to the mix, notably LDI Chairman Andre B. Lacy and former Anthem Chief Financial Officer Michael L. Smith. Before that move, the board was largely run by Mari Hulman George, her three daughters, and son, Tony.

Indiana Pacers President Jim Morris and Central Indiana Corporate Partnership CEO Mark Miles, who chaired the 2012 Super Bowl Host Committee and is former CEO of the ATP Tour, were added this year, as was Belskus.

When I asked Lacy why he had been added to the board overseeing the Speedway, he deadpanned: “Everybody needs a boss.”

It was clear, the inner circle had been broadened by a new thinking—and a new level of checks and balances.

At first, Belskus seemed awkward in public and uncomfortable with the media. Quickly it became apparent he was serious about following the new board’s primary objectives: Cut expenses and raise revenue…

Last year, Belskus hung corporate signage along pit lane. This year, he made the bold move to sell wall space in turns three and four to Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka and Shell Oil Co. It was the first time such ads were hung at the Brickyard.

Also this year, NTB, a national car service and retail outlet, will have signage in the grass at turn one and signage will be hung on the back of existing video boards. Also firsts at the vaunted Speedway.

IMS’ opening up of areas previously off-limits to advertisers has created a swell of interest among marketers. In addition to Fuzzy’s, Speedway officials signed new deals this year with Continental Tire, Nissan, Visit Florida, First National Bank of Omaha, 5-Hour Energy, Farmers Insurance, Nationwide and Banana Boat.

Belskus told IBJ he expects a strong double-digit increase in sponsorship sales this May at the track and a possible 10-percent plus increase in total revenue for this year’s Indianapolis 500 over last year.

IMS Chief Sales and Marketing Officer Mike Redlick said “there’s been a change in philosophy” at the track. At the heart of the change, said Speedway executives, is creating an event that is more friendly toward the track’s corporate partners.

Key Contributor to Indiana Business Community Passes

While the Indiana Chamber is proud to represent the business community of the entire state, our physical home is in downtown Indianapolis. Because of this, we fondly remember Mel Simon, whose contributions to Central Indiana will be difficult to equal. Simon passed away at the age of 82 Wednesday. Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard offered these words:

The City of Indianapolis today lost a true partner and friend with the death of Mel Simon. Mel and the entire Simon family have done great work in strengthening our local economy and improving our downtown district. Mel will be truly missed and forever remembered for his many contributions to this city and our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family at this time."

Inside INdiana Business has the release from the Simon Property Group:

Melvin Simon, shopping center industry pioneer and Chairman Emeritus of the Board of Simon Property Group, has died at the age of 82 after a short illness.

A native of the Bronx, New York, Mr. Simon attended the Bronx High School of Science and the City College of New York, where he earned a B.S. degree in accounting, and an M.B.A. with emphasis on real estate. He came to Indiana in 1954 while serving in the U.S. Army at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis.

Upon his discharge from the Army, Mr. Simon worked as a leasing representative with the Albert Frankel Company, an Indianapolis developer of community shopping centers. In 1960, sensing the vast potential in this industry, Mr. Simon, joined by his brothers Herbert and Fred, created Melvin Simon & Associates, who quickly became known for their willingness to do business on a handshake. Continue reading

Pacers Sports & Entertainment President Speaks at Economic Club in Evansville

Jim Morris, president of Indiana Pacers Sports & Entertainment, spoke to an audience of nearly 170 at the Economic Club of Indiana luncheon held in Evansville yesterday.  

Morris began with humor – issuing the same promise he claims Elizabeth Taylor made to each of her seven husbands: “Don’t worry honey, I won’t keep you long.”

It was clear from the outset of his presentation that few in the audience would have minded if Morris, one of the most accomplished humanitarian and business leaders of our time, had indeed run long, though he did not.

Morris spoke with eloquence and expertise on the contributions of Evansville to Indiana and the world, noting the ideas for Riley Children’s Hospital and the Smithsonian Institute came from the city. He also spoke of work with the United Nations’ World Food Program – which he led from 2002-2007, and, of course, leading the Pacers – which he says is “just as difficult” as his UN gig but “not as important.”

Morris addressed the problem of world hunger and its impact on children by analogizing that the number of children dying from hunger equates to 45 fully-loaded 747 aircrafts crashing — every single day. He thanked Sen. Lugar and other Hoosiers for some powerful contributions in the fight against hunger but reminded the audience that much work remains and spoke of his own “haunting feelings of insufficiency at not getting enough done.”

Morris spoke of the upcoming basketball season. He told of a conversation in which Pacers Team President Larry Bird (known as a player for his legendary work ethic) credited 2009 Pacers draft pick Tyler Hansbrough with being the hardest working player Bird had ever seen. When Morris pressed with “as hard as you worked?,” Bird replied, “even harder.” 

Overall, Morris’ presentation was both insightful and reflective – describing life as being about the search for community and insisting that, “We all need to work harder at being advocates and working for each other.”

Be sure to follow the Economic Club of Indiana on Facebook.

Final Takeaways on New State Budget

Great, we have a state budget for the next two years, but what’s to make of it?

Foremost, the budget sticks to Gov. Daniels’ request to maintain a $1 billion surplus in the state’s reserve funds.   According to Indiana Chamber tax lobbyist Bill Waltz, this prudent amount is significant and important for the state to stay on track financially.

“With the revenue stream being so incredibly uncertain in the coming months and the federal stimulus dollars that are built into the two-year budget going away in 2012, it is critical that we not just cross our fingers and simply hope for the revenue stream to return.  Because if the economy fails to rebound or falters only slightly longer than the revenue projections, we will be in a hole at the end of the budget cycle.

“And then the only way to avoid a tax increase of some kind would be to utilize the surplus balance as that final bridge out of the troubled economy. In other words, it is at that time – not now or next year – that we (the state of Indiana) may want to use those funds,” he explains.

Waltz also believes the budget strikes a good balance between “spending desires and reasonable fiscal constraint on many issues (not just in the education area).”

A number of positive provisions that fell by the wayside via the regular session budget collapse had better fortune this time around.  Among them, the bulk of what was House Bill 1447, an all-inclusive piece of tax legislation, and a multi-million-dollar financial rescue for Indianapolis’ Capital Improvement Board (CIB).

The CIB situation simply had to be dealt with, Waltz says.

“Many from outside the Central Indiana area are reluctant to acknowledge the economic contribution that the CIB facilities (the convention center, Lucas Oil Stadium, Conseco Fieldhouse and Victory Field) make to the state’s economic vitality and coffers. Indiana, not Indianapolis, could not afford to see these operations and the tax revenue that their attractions bring be put in jeopardy,” he asserts.

Indiana Chamber education lobbyist Derek Redelman believes the budget bill also produced one of the best sets of education reform in the state’s history.

Heading that list of accomplishments is the new K-12 school funding formula that gives greater focus to students, rather than school districts, than any previous budget of the last couple decades. 

“The bill also included a scholarship tax credit that will generate private donations to help low- and moderate-income families to attend the schools of their choice – while also saving money for the state.  It also eliminated a longstanding statute that had prohibited schools from using the results of state tests to evaluate teachers,” Redelman notes.

“This budget avoided caps and other controls on charter schools, despite a session-long full-court press by Indianapolis Public Schools, House Democrats, teacher unions, school administrators and other charter school opponents.  Plus, it will allow virtual charter schools to finally get started, after a two-year moratorium created by the 2007 state budget.” 

Correction: The budget passed the Republican-controlled Senate 34-16.  A total of 30 of the 33 Republicans voted for the bill and were joined by four Democrats (Hume, Young, Arnold and Mrvan). Republican no votes were from Leising, Delph and Becker.

Indy Mayor Makes Case for CIB Funds

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard made his plea today before members of the budget conference committee for over $45 million in funding to rescue the city’s Capital Improvement Board (CIB).

According to Ballard, the CIB has a “three to four-year hump to get over.  We’re at risk until that point.”

At risk are major sports events such as the Big Ten basketball tournaments, the men’s NCAA Final Four, the 2012 Super Bowl and the convention center expansion.

Representative Terry Goodin (D-Austin) asked the mayor if his “proposal would take care of the board’s deficit or is it just another Band-Aid” – with more dollars needed down the road.  Ballard replied, “I feel pretty comfortable with this going forward…I don’t want to come back (for more money) – nobody wants us to come back.”

Ballard pointed out several times the connection of CIB activities to the entire state, referencing that the majority (60%) of traffic to the downtown sports facilities, Circle Centre mall, etc. is from out of town.

Though overall sympathetic to the mayor’s predicament, some registered displeasure that one area of the state would receive such significant financial attention.

Representative Bill Crawford (D-Indianapolis): “One of the caveats I’ve stated all along is that I support this, but by my own calculations, I can count only 21 legislators representing Marion County – and that’s a problem.  Other areas of the state have problems too.”

Crawford also encouraged his fellow legislators to keep the Indianapolis Indians baseball team in mind when looking at the mayor’s proposed increase in the admission tax, which he said could adversely affect the most affordable sports option for families,

Representatives Dennis Avery (D-Evansville) and Eric Turner (R-Marion) raised questions over Ballard’s proposed $2 million increase in the Professional Sports Development Area (PSDA) from $8 million to $10 million.  These additional funds would come to the CIB via the retention of more funds – as opposed to going into the state coffers.  These two legislators were concerned with how this would look to other cities like Fort Wayne and Evansville with professional sports teams but already receiving significantly less funding. 

Meanwhile, Rep. Jeff Espich (R-Uniondale) worried that helping the CIB “would open it up for others to try to fix gaming and other issues elsewhere ….we will be doomed if that happens.”

One voice of reason in all of this was Sen. Lindel Hume (D-Princeton), who seemed to be tired of hearing that no one outside of Marion County truly cared about the CIB funding woes. 

“I live in rural Princeton and I care.  The CIB represents a significant investment in future revenue for Indiana,” he notes.  “If we don’t do something, Circle Centre (mall) will close; we will lose dollars.  If we don’t do something, the conventions will leave; we will lose dollars.  This is as important as a large manufacturer to the state.”

But perhaps Rep. Cherrish Pryor (D-Indianapolis) made the best case for providing the CIB with the requested money.  “The state receives a much greater amount in return – roughly half a billion dollars – than what CIB is asking us for.”

It would appear then that some common ground must be reached and CIB funding included in the state budget, despite the shortness of time. (Crawford noted a bill must be printed by Sunday to present to the House.)

Economic Club Hits the Road, Bringing Speakers to More Indiana Cities

The Economic Club is pleased to announce a series of presentations throughout Indiana during the summer months of 2009. These events, dubbed the "Economic Club Summer Series," will feature the same high-quality speakers that the regular season events have become known for.

"We are very excited to be bringing the (Economic) Club, in a physical sense, to other parts of the state," comments Steve Walker, president of the Economic Club.

An arrangement allowing WFYI to produce statewide broadcasts of current presentations has helped generate a great deal of interest outside of Indianapolis over the past two seasons. Hosting events in other cities is part of the continuing effort to bring the Economic Club to all Hoosiers.  

The first stop on the 2009 Summer Series tour is set for June 9 in Merrillville — featuring tax policy expert and nationally published opinion leader Scott Hodge. Indiana Pacers president Jim Morris will be the keynote speaker for a July 14 event in Evansville, and Fort Wayne will play host in August. Details for the August event and other specifics are still being finalized but will be announced soon.   

Current sponsors for the 2009 Summer Series include Ivy Tech, ProLiance Energy, Franklin College, Schmidt Associates and ESW Inc. Speaker’s Reception sponsors include NIPSCO – June; Old National, Regency Commercial Associates – July.

A variety of sponsorship opportunities remain. Contact Jim Wagner for details at [email protected].

Luntz: A Little Rest, a Lot of Energy

Frank Luntz was getting ready to speak to the Indiana Chamber board of directors as part of that group’s spring meeting. I had just finished a 40-minute interview (see the BizVoice magazine story) when the political and communications guru said he needed to take it easy for a little bit.

Before closing his eyes, he assured me his constantly buzzing PDA wouldn’t let him rest for long and that he’d be ready for his nearly two hours with the board. OK, he had just told me about some of his many recent travels. He was in Indianapolis that morning (he has an ongoing relationship with the Pacers, precipitated by work he did for the Simons and their shopping mall empire) before coming down to French Lick. And, to be honest, he looked like long hours were the norm rather than the exception.

Ten uncomfortable (at least on my part) minutes later, I said it’s time to go — and, as promised, he was ready. Board members were treated to a powerful and interactive session in which Luntz shared strong messages on politics, communicating effectively and more. It’s based on his book,  "Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear."

You will see and hear plenty of Luntz as the November elections approach. Read more today in BizVoice.

Pacer Proud Again: Draft/Trade Overhaul Could Mean More than Victories

Like most of you, I’ve been disappointed with the Pacers’ off the court troubles in recent years. Larry Legend must be a believer in Barack Obama’s slogan of "change," because that is what the Pacers are trying to do.
 
The Pacers are important to downtown Indianapolis’ economy (not to mention state pride). Downtown business booms on Sundays when the Colts play well and they have played well consistently for nearly 10 years. Winning creates a great trickle down effect — more hotel rooms are reserved, more parking garages are full, more money being spent at restaurants and more dollars being spent at the Circle Centre Mall. This all equals more tax dollars, as well. The Pacers’ optimism of winning again and employing good characters should improve their low attendance numbers and boost business downtown on game nights. 
 
Their roster moves in the last two days will make me give them another shot. They likely won’t hold up the NBA Finals trophy at the end of next season, but they will be in the mix for the playoffs and they will represent our state with better citizens. Let’s get behind them like we did when "Boom Baby!" was said more often than "going green."  Entertain your clients at one of their suites. Take your kids out for a quick drive around Lucas Oil Stadium, a bite to eat downtown and a Pacers game. 

I’ll be back in the stands at Conseco Fieldhouse, one of the greatest athletic facilities in the country. I hope you will do the same.