The impact of the economy continues to be felt in the world of sports, as the Indianapolis Colts have announced that 25 jobs have been cut. The team issued a statement this week but did not specify which jobs would be removed.
The announcement comes on the heels of hints from team president Bill Polian that the team will have a hard time getting past the salary cap restrictions for next season. 2009 is the final year of the current salary cap structure and the new rules will, ironically, see teams suffer major salary cap impacts from cutting players to stay below the salary cap.
However, fans may not easily take pity on the Colts’ front office. The team had a league-leading 15.8% attendance increase this year. With seven straight playoff trips and going from a 60,000-seat arena to a 75,000-seat arena, it looks like the Colts have nailed it. The economic reality is that both the city and the team are suffering from the economic realities of the day.
The Capital Improvement Board, which manages Lucas Oil Stadium, has announced that it had a $25 million deficit on the stadium this season. That number is expected to rise to $43 million next year. With city and state coffers seemingly depleted, it’s unclear how the shortfall will be addressed. As layoffs pile up in Marion County, don’t expect taxpayers to agree to pick up the bill.
Locally, the economic impact has been felt by the Indy Racing League and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Both have cut jobs in recent weeks. In the NFL, the Browns, Patriots and Redskins have also laid off workers. Major League Baseball has cut jobs in its front office and individual teams (Blue Jays 40, Diamondbacks 31) are cutting payroll as well.
Could he even tighten his belt at the Super Bowl? Bet! Tickets that were $10,000 a year ago are selling on websites like Stub Hub for around $3,300. Part of that could be the teams involved. Pittsburgh and arguably the worst franchise in NFL history, the Phoenix Cardinals, will be fighting for the Lombardi Trophy this year. Neither team is inspiring the fan fever moment that a major franchise in the market brings to the event.
However, long before the two teams met, belt-tightening was apparent. The big welcome parties thrown annually by Playboy and Sports Illustrated won’t be part of the fun this year. The last time the Super Bowl was in Tampa, the Florida Aquarium hosted four parties. This year, they are not organizing any.
Other signs of a new Super Bowl economy: There are at least a dozen brand-name hotels in the Tampa area with vacancies and rooms under $200. Media day saw fewer reporters as newspapers, sports radio and television stations cut their budgets.
So the Indianapolis Colts’ fight is not unique in the world of sports. But, the solutions will have a unique perspective if the Colts and Lucas Oil Stadium are to remain financially viable.