A scandal over taxpayer-funded hospitality at major US sports events has led to Indiana’s Capital Improvement Board (CIB) changing the way its tickets are distributed.
After an expose in the Indianapolis Star newspaper, the CIB said it will become more transparent about who gets to watch games from its suites at the home stadiums of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts and NBA’s Indiana Pacers.
The CIB, which oversees the state’s stadiums and convention centre, enacted its first written policy on the subject after an IndyStar story last year questioned whether the suites were being used for public business or personal perks.
The newspaper reported that a now-former board member used 99 free tickets over three seasons to the CIB’s lower-level suite at the Colts’ Lucas Oil Stadium. Often, he said, “friends and family and neighbours” joined him to cheer on the Indianapolis Colts.
Melina Kennedy, who took over as CIB president last year, said she pushed for a written ticket policy after the scandal broke. Board members, who are not paid, voted unanimously in favour of the proposal. Names and affiliations of people who use the suites will be retained for two years.
“It’s really just trying to be transparent with the community,” Kennedy said.
The CIB said the priority for suite tickets will be people entertaining decision-makers connected to tourism and conventions. Next on the list are donations for charitable causes, followed by board members.
“We do encourage board members, as part of their actual role in the job, to attend,” Kennedy said. “We think it’s important for them to be ambassadors for the customers and to be active in understanding the issues that the facilities face.”
The IndyStar’s Mark Alesia wrote: “While the CIB’s free use of the suite is part of the Colts’ stadium lease, it remains a valuable public asset whose official purpose is to promote tourism and convention business.
“The possible conflicts include whether CIB board members can be objective stewards of public money while accepting expensive perks for family and friends. Much of the tax money the CIB oversees goes directly or indirectly to the Colts and Indiana Pacers. The nine members of the CIB board vote on requests from the teams for facilities and upgrades.”