They’re coming for our NBA team. They’re calling Indiana Pacers owner Herb Simon, those billionaires from other cities, wanting to pry the most valuable asset from his $2.8 billion portfolio — but Simon tells everyone the same thing, and quickly gets off the phone: The Pacers are staying in Indianapolis for the rest of his life. And for decades after he’s gone. “I want to leave my legacy: This team permanently in Indianapolis,” Simon told IndyStar Friday in an interview at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. “That’s my No. 1 goal.” Simon bought the Pacers in 1983 with his older brother, Melvin — who died in 2009 at age 82 — but had never publicly discussed succession plans for the franchise until Friday, when he told IndyStar the team someday will be owned by his 53-year-old son, Steve. Behind the scenes, Steve Simon has been working closely with Pacers Sports and President Rick Fuson for five years — “He knows more about the dollars and cents than I do,” Herb said of his son — and met this week with several department heads. “If anything happens to me, he’d be taking over,” Herb said, adding that father and son are on the same page: The Pacers are staying in Indianapolis. The Pacers’ lease with Bankers Life Fieldhouse runs through the 2023-24 season, but Simon said: “We’re sitting down to try to extend the lease for the next 25 years, or 20 years, so I’ll know we’ll be here.” Simon says Bankers Life can be made viable for another quarter-century — viable financially, and for the fan experience — with a “major redo” that would be considerably cheaper than building a new arena. The franchise has spent more than $1 million on renovation concepts, he said, and soon will “sit down with the city and other people to work it out. We’re in that process.” Fuson, who sat in on the IndyStar interview Friday with Simon, said renovations could be done over the course of several summers, meaning the Pacers wouldn’t have to find a temporary home to accommodate the work. While the WNBA season of the Indiana Fever runs during the summer, Fuson said “there are some other gyms we could play, but we don’t know” the Fever would be displaced.
Pacers owner wants to extend lease, ensure team remains in Indiana
Indianapolis Star | Oct 21