City focuses on streets in $30M natatorium plan

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What began with city officials trying to figure out how to overhaul the Indiana University Natatorium at IUPUI in time for the 2016 U.S. Olympic diving trials has morphed into a $30 million deal to benefit the college campus and the near-west side, as well as Indianapolis' reputation as a hub for amateur sports.

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard on Monday morning unveiled details of the plan, in which IUPUI and Lilly Endowment each contribute $10 million for the natatorium overhaul, sought by the Indiana Sports Corp. after the city was selected to host the diving trials in June 2016.

IBJ first reported on the proposal July 3.

Lilly Endowment has a history of contributing to projects that are difficult to justify when financed solely with taxpayer dollars. The endowment contributed, for example, to the construction of the Hoosier Dome before Indianapolis had a football team.

The city will tap the downtown tax-increment finance fund to reconfigure streets on the IUPUI campus and create better connections with neighborhoods west of campus and with downtown, east of campus.

Michigan and New York streets will be converted into two-way streets from West Street through the campus and across the bridge into Haughville. Those streets, as well as West Street between Michigan and New York, will be improved to include "safer pedestrian crossings and sidewalks, bike lanes, specialized lighting, decorative signage, public art, grass medians, trees and rain gardens," the city said.

Construction will begin in 2015 and is expected to last two years.

"Thousands of people enter and exit IUPUI for work, class and access to medical care every day,” Ballard said in a prepared statement. “These streets improvements will make it safer and easier for people to access campus and encourage investment and development in Haughville, Hawthorne and Stringtown from companies seeking to be near IUPUI and the growing IU Health complex.”

Improvements to the natatorium include a new roof, heating and cooling system, pool filtration, lighting, skylights and mechanical repairs.

The 220,000-square-foot facility was built in 1982 and is the nation's largest indoor swimming facility. It hosted the 1987 Pan Am Games and 13 U.S. Olympic trials in swimming, diving or synchronized swimming. More than 15 world records have been set at the facility.

City-County Council Democrats had objected to the city's initial plan to provide $10 million for the natatorium overhaul, saying the cash-strapped city should not be paying to renovate state property.

“Just as the  IUPUI campus has been an integral part of downtown Indianapolis for decades, the IU Natatorium has become one of the city’s signature sports venues over the last 30 years,” IU President Michael McRobbie said in a prepared statement. “Indiana University’s investment in the future of the natatorium is emblematic of our commitment to the city of Indianapolis. The planned improvements will allow the natatorium to provide swimmers and divers of all levels – as well as fans of the sports – with a world-class facility for years to come, further strengthening the strong partnership between IU and the city.”

Tom Morrison, IU vice president of capital planning and facilities, said the city's willingness to help IUPUI execute its master plan for Michigan and New York streets freed up the money it needed to match Lilly Endowment.

The mayor's chief of staff, Ryan Vaughn, said the endowment has always been at the table ready to contribute to the facility, which the endowment helped build in the first place. He said the deal came together about five months ago, but IU had to make formal application to the endowment for matching funds.

Department of Metropolitan Development Director Adam Thies said the Metropolitan Development Commission will be asked to vote Wednesday on the TIF money.

The project might end up costing the city less than $10 million, Thies said. Designs and engineering plans are yet to be worked out.



  • good project
    Just one correction..liberals are rarely complaining about Ballard's projects. It's typically Cons that are calling him names because god forbid that he spends any money on bike lanes or other projects in the interest of the general public. Now, I do have a problem with over-use of TIFs in general (lack of transparency, easy to abuse and create long-term financial problems for the city), but that's a whole different story..
  • Seems like a good compromise deal
    More residential construction at IUPUI and in surrounding neighborhoods means more residents spending more $ in local venues. An improved Natatorium means we will continue to attract Olympic trials and other amateur events to the venue which, in turn, pump millions of tourism dollars into the local economy. And two-way traffic will enhance pedestrian safety and improve the overall sense of place on campus. I'm not a huge Ballard fan, but this seems like another good public-private partnership that will pay long-term dividends in an important part of the city.
  • Ballard vs. Hogsett
    Joe resigns, then THIS pops off. Wow! It is on!!!!
  • Shocking Italiano
    Is there some way we could teach proper capitalization to easily shocked Italianos?
  • Deport him
    Isn't there some way we could Deport this idiot mayor????
    • so its OK to throw money at the Pacers and the Colts and a Cricket Stadium?
      What is going on, it is OK to provide subsidies to multimillionaires for the Pacers, the Colts, and a waste of money Cricket field and not spend money on a world class swimming, diving facility and IUPUI. Sorry, but it seems we have misplaced values, not on amateur sports and education, but city money for professional sports thatshould be subsidized and payhed for by Pacers players, coaching, etc. the Simons, and Colts players, coaching,and the Irsays. Who has the money and why should central Indiana residents subsidize any of this.
    • Excellent
      Natatorium is badly badly badly (cannot emphasis that enough) in need of this work. Will be interesting to see what the engineers/architects find when they dig into the building to create plans for the project. Money well spent by IU and Lilly.
    • Typical mis-characterization
      I grow weary of people calling every one-way, multi-lane street in this city a highway. It is a flat out falsehood. Furthermore, what will the exact lane configurations be in this conversion? Will it be one lane of traffic in each direction, another lane for transit with the balance being split between the median and bicycle lanes? I'm sure it will look pretty but traffic will be constricted and slowed to a crawl. Not to mention slowing access to one of the state's busiest hospital's where mere seconds can mean the difference between life and death.
    • TIF
      This is the problem with TIFs. It diverts tax money from being used for public safety and puts rules in places saying the money has to be used for specific things. Then you get fools who say, "Its TIF money!!! We can't use it on cops!"
    • TIF strikes again...
      If it's not tax money, why is it called Tax Increment Financing??
    • B&O Trail
      If the Town of Speedway has any sense they will jump on this. The planned B&O has been planned to stretch from the new main street redevelopment right up a connection with this corridor. That trail would be transformative for Speedway, similar to the pedestrian/bicycle access provided to Broad Ripple via the Monon. Not saying Main Street is Broad Ripple avenue, but they've got a start out in Speedway and the trail seems essential to people actually wanting to live there.
    • Taryn
      C'mon Taryn, At least read the article. As I and many have said, the city is not spending money on the Natatorium. Good grief.....
    • Project
      Dude, please reread the article. The city is not spending any money on the Natatorium. It's coming from IUPUI and the Lilly Endowment. The city's money is going toward streets and improving traffic flow.
    • Flashing lights and signs?
      Why is the street configuration necessary? New York and Michigan get congested enough as 4-lane one-way streets, imagine how bad they'll be when they are only 2-lanes in each direction. Furthermore, there are TONS of flashing lights and yield signs for pedestrians EVERYWHERE on IUPUI's campus, but I swear I'm the only driver who yields to the pedestrians there. Just enforce the existing signs!
    • Great News
      Excellent investment! Many times people are too shortsighted to see that investments such as these are just as important as "fixing potholes". And, perhaps I missed it, but could you point out where your / our pockets are being pilfered in this deal, Italiano? I didn't read where any of your (or my) tax dollars are involved.
    • This is what cities are supposed to do
      This is obviously good for the city and all of its residents. Would you object to any improvements to anything in our city until every pothole is filled? Why? Look, there's a proposal for roads in place, with funding proposed as well, it simply requires the City Council and the Major to agree. It will happen (not soon enough, perhaps, but it will happen). In the meantime, yes, let's do the common sense, demonstrably smart things that will make our city better.
    • Sigh
      No money for cops, no money to fix potholes, no money for sidewalks, but theres always money for cricket, the pacers and now this.
    • Typical of the boo birds. If you read the article you would see the city is not spending on a sports venue, but investing in making the streets safer and more efficient while improving neighborhoods. If you want someone to blame for the potholes, blame the dems. They are the ones who made them a political issue by holding up money until the potholes are decided by politics and not need. As far as spending the money for crime prevention et al, you can't spend TIF money on that. It is for infrastructure. Ie roads, sidewalks etc.... Making those streets safer is a very good use for that money. That it coincides with a project that will benefit the entire city is a plus and good planning on the city's part.
    • Great for everyone
      Complain, complain, complain. This is good for downtown, good for the near west side, and good for IUPUI. There is no reason for New York and Michigan to be one-way super highways through campus, and West Street needs to be slowed to reflect the fact that it is in the middle of a downtown area, not the suburbs. More pedestrians and bikers in this area (and slowed traffic) will actually improve safety in the area. This is exactly the type of partnership into which the city should be entering.
    • Greg Ballard
      Greg Ballard just does not get it. His focus is SOLELY on what city projects can be created to make his campaign contributors money. Our city is literally crumbling and he just does care. City money for this project is completely unnecessary. If the natatorium needs upgraded, then let the OWNERS worry about it.
      • What?
        "bike lanes, specialized lighting, decorative signage, public art, grass medians, trees and rain gardens" These are all nice things to have, but can we freaking get the hundreds of potholes all over the city fixed first?!?!?!!?!?!
      • Shocking
        Not a word about how much the taxpayers will be ripped off on this deal. Crime spirals out of control and the the social problems that cause it go unheeded by an administration that does not give a rats behind about the welfare of our citizens. There is no money for police or plowing snow (remember last winter) or or or or, but spend on a sports complex, and the cash flows out of the taxpayers pockets. This city is SICK

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