A $48 million "oops" in Indy

Indianapolis politicians are scratching their heads and pointing fingers regarding a $48 million oversight that must be paid to the Colts to terminate the current lease with the team.

All appeared to be well in Indianapolis after the state stepped in and worked with the city, the legislature and the Colts to ensure the team would have a new stadium and would stay committed to playing in Indiana for the next 30 years.

But there has been a collective gasp of "oops" in the Hoosier state this week.

The Colts have a lease agreement with the city that requires the city to make annual payments to the team to make up for specified revenue shortfalls dating back to 2003. It was one of the catalysts -- along with the desire for a better stadium facility -- for the city to begin negotiations on a new deal with the Colts.

For the 2003 season alone, the city would have been forced to cough up $13 million. And if they didn't, the Colts could have left in 2007. Conversely, the city was protected from the Colts breaking their side of the lease agreement and leaving Indianapolis prematurely by an $11 million annual fee levied against the Colts through the year 2013.

Since the city is breaking the current lease and requesting the Colts to sign a new one -- partially so they can avoid those annual penalty payments -- they are responsible for a $48 million penalty under the agreement.

And that little detail is the latest development in the Colts' new stadium controversy.

The $48 million penalty was not included in Governor Mitch Daniels' and the legislature's $900 million stadium funding plan passed in April (the funding plan also includes money to expand the Indiana Convention Center). Daniels said he believed the city understood they would be responsible for the lease termination cost.

But Indianapolis mayor Bart Peterson was defiant in his reply to that stance, claiming that the public funding of $900 million was plenty to cover all costs -- including the termination fee.

"There will not be another penny paid by Indianapolis taxpayers for this project," he said.

Daniels says he believed the city's negotiators understood during discussions that the termination fee was not part of the new stadium funding bill.

While battle lines are being drawn over the issue, the Colts' position is clear. They are going to pay $100 million into the project, but fully expect someone to pay them $48 million for breaking the lease.

Daniels is adamant that this "oops" would not stop the project from moving forward. He appears confident that more money could be saved within the plan or the state could help the city find the money in their budget.

"We pulled this thing out of a ditch once," Daniels said. "We don't intend to let it slip back."

Colts Blitz Top Stories