Bill Benner shares Pacers organization’s impact, giving back
By Mark Ambrogi
In his past life as a sportswriter and columnist for an Indiana newspaper, Bill Benner might have been more inclined to offer views on what the departure of Paul George might mean for the Indiana Pacers.
However, in his role as Pacers Sports & Entertainment senior vice president of corporate, community and public relations, Benner focused on the impact the organization has on the Indianapolis area and the state during a July 20 presentation to the Westfield Chamber of Commerce at The Bridgewater Club in Carmel.
For example, in February and March 2016, the building hosted 54 games in 48 days with state boys’ and girls’ championships, the Big Ten men’s and women’s tournaments, the Women’s Final Four and Pacers games. There were six concerts in that span as well.
‘This year Feb. 23 to April 1, we had 38 games in 37 days, along with six concerts and WWE,” Benner said.
This is no break, even in the Pacers’ off-season.
“There is no off-season at Pacers Sports & Entertainment,” Benner said. “That’s a good thing, keeps us busy and we generate income.”
Benner said the most recent economic impact shows that his organization and Bankers Life Fieldhouse generate $234 million in economic activity, and nearly half of that come from outside the state.
“The NCAA regional first and second round (in March) basketball games are a good example of how we draw regional and national audiences,” Benner said.
Benner said the demand for space never stops.
“That’s another reason why we’re about ready to open the St. Vincent Center (Pacers training facility),” Benner said. “People say we already had a practice court. The demand on our space was so great we had to create more public space. With the Pacers moving across the street, that will open our court for more public events. I want to point out St. Vincent Center is being financed by (Pacers owner) Herb Simon all by himself.”
Playing in a public facility, Benner said it’s incumbent on the organization to give back. For instance, the Pacers held a free summer hoops skills tour in July
“We have more than 50 community programs,” Benner said. “We host a Thanksgiving dinner that feeds more than 700 people.”
Benner, who helps direct the Pacers Foundation, said the organization awards $500,000 in grants each year, primarily to at-risk youth.
“One thing we’ve been doing is rehabbing outdoor basketball courts around Indianapolis,” he said.