McCarthy: What’s Next? A Subsidized 20,000-Foot Ballroom?

January 10, 2018

by Fred McCarthy

Nothing like good news if in fact it is good news. We’re talking about the announced anticipation of the addition of another large hotel — 800 to 1,000 rooms — in the downtown area of Indianapolis. Which might or might not include a super-sized ballroom that the city needs.

It seems the ballroom might be handled by extension of the convention center itself. This is a little uncertain because of the inclusion of puzzling language in the article. One sentence mentions a “20,000-plus-square-foot ballroom.” Later we get “which could be as much as 20,000 square feet bigger than the convention center’s current largest ballroom at 32,000 square feet” That’s a helluva plus. (Our emphasis.)

If we’re to believe the Indianapolis Business Journal that hit the mail box yesterday, it appears the convention/hotel business in the city is matching Dow Jones for skyrocketing optimism. We are given a quote from the CEO of a professional hotel consulting group saying, “New hotels . . . can create demand on their own.” Unfortunately, he does not go on to say that they can create financial support on their own. Why does such an economically beautiful project always start with pleas of poverty and the need to hack into the taxpayer’s wallet?

And sure enough, down a couple of paragraphs from the end of the full-page story, we get this minor news: The project is being “discussed by officials from Visit Indy, the Capital Improvements Board and the Mayor’s Office.”

Can we get some early information as to how this is going to play out? Why is the CIB involved? It spends its time, and our money, handing out funds from the Food and Beverage Tax to sports operations. Isn’t it probable that the millions (how many?) to be handed out for a hotel will come from TIF revenues? Are we going to start putting those slush funds into a joint account? Heaven help the poor taxpayer — with “poor” being the operative words here.

As an aside, the morning daily carried a full page ad on Dec. 31 for Downtown Indy to thank its supporters for the year. The taxpayer didn’t get mentioned there, either.

Fred McCarthy, an adjunct scholar of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation and editor of the blog indytaxdollars, represented various taxpayer and business organizations before the Indiana General Assembly for 40 years, being awarded a Sagamore of the Wabash by two governors along the way.


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