City officials confirmed Wednesday that Mayor Greg Ballard's staff is backing a plan for the city to pay about half of the $17 million to $20 million in renovations needed at the Indiana University Natatorium at IUPUI.
The city’s Capital Improvement Board is also contemplating setting aside $500,000 annually in local hospitality tax revenue for the ongoing maintenance of the facility, officials said.
As IBJ reported Oct. 19, IU officials have been seeking financial help for the renovations, and have considered turning over day-to-day operations of the venue to a third party. In recent months, they have been in discussions with Ballard and officials from the Indiana Sports Corp., the CIB, and the National Institute for Fitness and Sport.
IU owns the facility on the west side of downtown. Administrators are working on a plan to come up with the rest of the money needed for the 31-year-old aquatics venue.
What’s not complicated—according to those familiar with the Natatorium—is determining what the 4,700-seat venue needs. While the pools and diving well are in good shape, the roof needs to be replaced, as do the heating and air-conditioning and electrical systems, Tom Morrison, IU's vice president for capital planning and facilities, told IBJ in October.
Officials for USA Swimming have said the facility needs modern video and scoreboards and other amenities common in newer facilities.
If the infrastructure work isn’t done in the next two to four years, Morrison said, the price tag for upgrades could increase substantially.
Natatorium officials were not immediately available for comment Wednesday afternoon about the proposed city plan.
Indiana Sports Corp. CEO Allison Melangton has said her organization would consider asking its corporate sponsors to financially support the Natatorium improvements.
The city's plan likely would require approval from the City-County Council. Lieutenants for Ballard, a Republican, already have huddled with key City-County Council Democrats about the plan, two councilors told IBJ on Wednesday.
"In general, I support the Natatorium and think it's good for the city, but this is an issue that needs a lot more scrutiny," said Zach Adamson, a Council Democrat. "I do wish the communication from the mayor's office to the Council members on these types of things was better."
On Tuesday, the ISC and IU announced that the Natatorium would host the 2016 U.S. Olympic Diving Trials.