Indiana Bill Could Help Sports Commission Cover Bid Fees | Sports Destination Management

Indiana Bill Could Help Sports Commission Cover Bid Fees

Jan 27, 2022 | By: Mary Helen Sprecher
The Lucas Oil Stadium could be hosting even more sports events, should legislation pass, allowing cities to access a public fund that could cover bid fees - widely considered an obstacle by many areas. Photo © Wellesenterprises |

A new bill in Indiana would provide additional money for the Indiana Sports Corporation (ISC) to bid on bringing events to the state.

The advantages are clear. Bid fees, particularly for large national events, can be expensive. But not being able to bid can cost a city the chance to realize significant economic impact.

According to The State House File website, the bill specifically mentions sports events, trade shows and conventions. SB 245, the bill’s current I.D. number, outlines what ISC could spend the money on, including the costs associated with bidding and planning and the facilities that would be used.

The local Fox affiliate notes that the bill, sponsored by Senator Kyle Walker of Lawrence, would funnel public funds through Indiana Sports Corp for distribution across the state. In turn, this could help destinations bring more tournaments and events to Indiana.

“I look at this as an investment rather than an expense,” said Walker. “Indiana Sports Corp, through their efforts statewide, had an economic impact of over $76 million just last year which also amounted to over five million dollars in local taxes and five million dollars in state taxes.”

Tourism officials say the funding is necessary because Indianapolis area has been lagging behind others in the nation.

Ryan Vaughn, president of ISC, told The State House File, “There are more than 15 states and dozens of cities that have some form of a public bid fund to support and attract and grow sports.”

The State House article also stated that Chris Gahl, a senior vice president with Visit Indy, said recently the city lost three bids—all non-sporting events worth $30 million in economic impact—to Orlando, Dallas and Houston. According to Gahl, the event planners told Visit Indy the cities were able to access bid funds, whereas Indy could not.

Walker told Fox reporters that one bid for a national swimming event had failed because local hosts couldn’t raise the funds to entice organizers to come to Indiana.

“They simply couldn’t bid on the event because it was essentially a $1.5 million licensing fee and they didn’t have the funds to bid,” he said. “We lost out on $80 million of economic impact and all of the tax dollars associated with that.”

Bid fees can vary but they can often prove an insurmountable obstacle to sports commissions and CVBs, particularly now, when communities are coming off a pandemic year during which many events had to be cancelled.

One aspect of the legislation states that at least 25 percent of the money would have to go to events not in Marion County (the central county of the Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson MSA).

This is something that works well for those surrounding areas that also host large events, including Hamilton County (home of the wildly popular Grand Park Sports Campus) and Fort Wayne (where the Plassman Athletic Center at Turnstone, the fourth-largest Paralympic Sports club in the country, can be found) – as well as a host of others.

In fact, in during testimony at the Indiana Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Liz Brown of Fort Wayne, expressed concern that Paralympic sports events are often overshadowed by other sports communities. She noted her “neck of the woods is the only Paralympic training … place in the entire state of Indiana.” (Brown drew parallels to the NCAA not spending as much on women’s sports as it does men’s).

Andy Cook, mayor of Westfield, located in Hamilton County, told reporters having a pool of public money for disbursement to sports commissions and CVBs could allow for a far more equal playing field, as it were, when going head-to-head with other cities.

“It becomes very competitive and these tournaments, they want more and more for nothing, so to speak, and, of course, our funds here locally are extremely limited in how we could compete with a state backed incentive program for a given tournament…if we have to compete with Round Rock, Texas, for a soccer tournament, now Indiana could be more competitive, and we would welcome that greatly.”

Walker estimates a $5 million state investment in bid packages seed money would result in stronger bids by Indiana event organizers.

The State House File notes, “The amount of money put in the fund would not be decided until next year as 2022 is not a budget year, but Sen. Eddie Melton of Gary asked Vaughn if there was a “target number.”

“To be able to, you know, enact a bid fund that had $5 million would be extraordinary,” Vaughn replied. 

SB 245 unanimously passed in the Senate and now moves to the House for consideration, according to the Indianapolis Business Journal. However, even if it passes this year, funding would have to wait until the General Assembly’s 2023 state budget writing session.

SDM will follow this issue; expect other states to suggest this type of legislation.

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