Former Mayor Bill Hudnut 'splains it

Dateline: Fri 20 Feb 2009

Regarding possible efforts of the Capitol Improvement Board to ask investors to forgive debt incurred in the building of Circle Centre Mall, former Indianapolis Mayor William Hudnut has a little bit to add.

This is important, since, as Hudnut points out, some of us are still trying to understand the relationship between investments made in the Circle Centre Mall and profits that were eventually directed to the building of Conseco Fieldhouse, under the direction of the CIB. What exactly is the money/deal trail for that relationship?

In an email, Hudnut, now a consultant in Washington, D.C., said he'd like to weigh in on "this little dustup."

Here are his thoughts:

"First, the folks that stepped up when I was mayor, pledged some funds, and were given a position as limited partners in the deal, did it in good faith as a gesture of civic leadership. They closed a gap of some $50+ million that opened up when commercial real estate took a downturn in the late Eighties. Without their efforts, the Mall would not have been built.

"Second, since the original deal was made during the Hudnut years, lots of things were changed, renegotiated, refinanced, etc., none of which I know about.

"Persons more familiar with the story, who are still in Indpls., like John Krauss, Mike Higbee, Fred Armstrong, Dave Frick, could probably fill in those details, if you are interested. And of course, (former Mayor Steve) Goldsmith (elected after Hudnut) and his people, like Bob Grand), since they were the ones who effected the changes.

"Third, I don't recollect that the CIB had any involvement at all in the original deal on the Mall, as it was called.

"How they and other capital projects like Lucas Oil Stadium and Conseco Field house, deals done after I was gone, got involved, is a mystery to me.

"Fourth, hindsight is more accurate than foresight, so of course, in these downtimes it is easy to criticize deals that government made once to stimulate economic development, now that we are in a recession. But certainly, originally, all the investors knew there was risk. I still

appreciate their initial investments.

Bill"

This story was originally reported in the Indianapolis Business Journal last Saturday by Cory Shouten. My interest is, in part, the fact that the Indianapolis Star was among the 13 investors that put their money where their mouths were, and contributed $2.6 million to the mall. At one time, before Gannett entered the picture, this relationship between the Mall and the Star was always disclosed in stories in the Star that referred to the Mall (as I recall).

How the money (or really, profits from the initial investment) got redirected to these later super-sports projects indeed does remain a bit of a mystery, as Hudnut suggests.

Investigative reporting, anyone?

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