Indianapolis mounting push to privatize parks

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

IndyParks put out a request for proposals Friday that could lead to privatization of some or all of the city’s parks and recreation facilities.

The department also is accepting ideas from third parties interested in opening new attractions within parks properties, or changing and improving existing parks facilities.

Proposals could include a single attraction within a park or an operations plan for the entire parks department portfolio, IndyParks officials said.

“We know this RFP is broad. We wanted to cast a wide net to engage the creativity of the community,” said IndyParks Deputy Director Jen Pittman. “We’re looking for proposals that will take our parks from good to great.”

The RFP went out Friday afternoon and will be posted on the city’s website Monday. Proposals will be due Jan. 31. An IndyParks review panel will examine those requests, and some of the proposals could be implemented in 2014.

“We’re going to move quickly where we can,” Pittman said. “But we want to get this right, and we’ll take the time needed to do that.”

The key objectives of the RFP are making the parks more efficient; optimizing and modernizing parks facilities; improving parks services; ensuring the parks’ long-term viability; attracting more park users; and creating significant additional revenue. The proposals must strive toward these objectives without costing the city any money, and a revenue-sharing component bringing the city some cash is strongly suggested, Pittman added.

“These proposals must be low- to no-risk for IndyParks,” she said.

The city is especially interested in proposals for new programs—anything from youth sports leagues to after-school programs and facilities.

One major facility that is expected to garner lots of interest from potential third-party operators is the World Sports Park on the city’s east side. The city is in the midst of converting Post Road Community Park into the 48-acre World Sports Park, slated to have five multi-purpose fields for hosting soccer, rugby, cricket, lacrosse, hurling and other international sporting events.

This isn’t IndyPark’s first foray into privatization. For instance, private operators manage the city’s golf courses, Major Taylor Velodrome and the Go Ape zipline attraction within Eagle Creek Park.

The idea for the RFP cropped up just more than a year ago when city officials were brainstorming for ways to improve local parks facilities. Late last fall, IndyParks officials put out a request for information—requesting ideas for ways to upgrade city parks.

“We got some really interesting responses from a variety of sources,” Pittman said. “It gave us an indication that there’s an appetite for these types of initiatives.”


  • Balance
    There's a fine balance between contracting out parks and having them run and or maintained by in house staff. The personalized customer service to the local citizens given by city staff is usually unmatched by a contractor. Almost like talking to a real person vs a phone tree. However, in some situations, taking out the safety element or running a complete facility may be the wiser if the revenue increases or at least pays for itself.
  • This Has Happened Before
    In the late 70s the city "privatized" a park on the Near-Eastside by handing the land over to the Schwitzer Corp. It went our of business, the property switched hands several times, and finally was donated to a neighborhood association last year. In that time literally nothing was done as the area fell in to disrepair. It took 30 years after privatization for the land to become a park again. The idea that this should be expanded is just terrible.
  • community need
    All taxpayers - together - fund the parks and recreation system; typically because they believe collectively that it has value and increases everyone's quality of life (in addition to reduced crime and obesity). Privatizing the parks and rec system will remove the "public" part, reducing and/or eliminating free and inexpensive quality programming. All new options will serve only those with resources ($$$) to play/participate. The truly needy - the ones these types of programs help lift out of poverty long term - get left further behind. Sad that more and more people feel only those with money should have a chance in this world.
  • Idea factory
    The conservative solution is to eliminate any vestiges of public control. Apparently only when their private security final breaks down will they be amenable to serving needs larger than their own personal bubble.
  • Re: Paul Ogden
    I completely agree with Paul Ogden. This is Crony Capitalism at its worst.
  • and why
    and why would citizen taxpayers, individually or as organized groups, continue to be motivated to promote, support, advocate for, fund raise for, or otherwise engage in activities that will now help a private company's bottom line rather than a public entity that belongs to the community?
  • Mortgage the Future
    Len is exactly right. Let me though clarify a bit. The parks produce a revenue stream. What the city would be doing is entering into a lengthy lease to a company to receive that money (and fees that the company can increase) over the term of the lease. In return, we today get the money upfront. You're literally mortgaging the future for an upfront cash payment. They'll try to claim that we will retain control over the parks, but we won't. They'll make claims of increased attendance, which won't happen. It's all about getting the deal done and our tax dollars in the hands of a private company
    • FYI
      Speechless Republican World view
      ABSOLUTELY ABSURD IDEA / CONCEPT! It sounds like the Mayor and his 'cronies' [i.e.; former Governor Mitch Daniels and his 'cronies' did] are trying to mortgage the future for his own immediate glory and gratification today!
    • Shameful.
      This city is an absolute disgrace. There is no leadership here. No vision. Nothing. Our forefathers had the vision and wisdom to set aside land for parks. This current generation of pimps and prostitutes is selling out the public good in exchange for a fast buck. How embarrassing it is to be from this place. On the plus side, the city continues to provide excuses for the few remaining residents to flee.
    • Terrible Idea
      Think "Playland brought to you by McDonald's" here, folks. This will just be an excuse to market junk food, video games, and other garbage to kids in parks. And will almost certainly result in any decent jobs in our parks department becoming McJobs... A terrible idea all around.
    • Drop in a token, look at a duck
      It seems the mayor may have spent too much time with Ron Swanson when he was in town. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tiXQu0Yqr9o
    • Need Marketing
      My family uses the city parks for everything from ballet to swimming. We also watch live music and we have even participated in a few Easter egg hunts. In my opinion the City Parks are awesome! However, I think too many people have no clue the City even has all of these program offerings (most of which are free or next to free). I'd be interested to know if the city solicited any ideas from park staff for ways to improve. I'd also be interested to see if a small social media marketing campaign couldn't improve park attendance. Privatization can be good but it can also be a short sighted way of thinking.
    • SOP Ballard Style
      Remember, first we have to sign a hundred year lease to a private contractor to give them total control of all of the parks (including the swing sets). In return, the city will receive $1.27 and a job for one of Ballard's aides.
    • Funny, Patrick
      I get what they are saying, compete for the youth and amatuer sports market. Why not? Many parks have extra room for Pay2Play sports. If it funds the free stuff at the parks, I'm for it!
    • Revenue!
      So, we want to make the parks profit centers! Great idea! $10/hr to use the swing set! That'll work.

    Post a comment to this story

    We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
    You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
    Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
    No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
    We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

    Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

    Sponsored by

    facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

    Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
    Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
    Subscribe to IBJ
    1. Uh, sorry Johnnie, but you are incorrect. Despite the assertions by yourself and various defenders and captains, sports attendance is NOT off significantly at most sporting events in the US. Variances in attendance has been in the range of single digits, both + & - for years now. MLB has had most of its best overall attendance nubers in the last decade, and that trend has been consistent for most major sporting events. The number one issue cited by most fans when asked about attendance is the overall cost of attending. The presence of HD and big screen televisions in home doesn't even register, as a factor for not attending an event. VALUE in the product is the key, and apparently is something lacking in the current ICS. What other explanation is there when with what is routinely touted as the "best" racing on the planet, fans are staying away in DROVES. A "close" title battle into the last event at Fontana, with the "cars and stars" of the ICS, and who showed up? MAYBE 8K. Sorry, but HD TV isn't to blame for that kind of fan apathy.

    2. Do you need finance to establish your business ? Are you interested in getting a loan at 3% from our private company? If so please Email: suntrust_oil@blumail.org

    3. If she was worth the $ the public outcry over direct tv dropping them would have kept them on their dishes as we have seen with other companies. I too quit watching channel 13 after she showed up since I left channel 8 because of her all show rather than production results. When Randy on 8 corrected her she had a big head and incorrectly challenged his correction for pronunciation of a city. Other antics while she matures was too much for me with her very inaccurate forecasts. All the forecasters were predicting rain until Thursday except Chris. They predicted sunny on Thursday but instead of rain until Thursday upon which the sun would finally make it out in full glory Chris was right on the money just as I too predicted looking at the radar on weather.gov. One thing I love about Angela is the fear you can see in her every time it thunders in the winter. It far exceeds the entertainment value of her body language (high heel noise drags, depression, etc) when her forecasts are so incorrect. Her hair stands on end, you have to see it!!!

    4. Good Day, Apply For A Loan I am Mr Fernadez Antonio, a private Loan lender and a cooperate financial for real estate and any kinds of business financing. I also offer Loans to individuals, Firms and cooperate bodies at 3% interest rate We offer any kind of loans. email us via fernadezloaninvest@outlook.com LOAN APPLICATION FORM First name:......................... Middle name:......................... Last name:........................................ Date of birth (yyyy-mm-dd):....................... Gender:........................................... Marital status:................................... Total Amount Needed............................... Loan Duration.................................... Address:.......................................... City:............................................. State/province:................................... Zip/postal code:.................................. Country:.......................................... Phone:............................................ Fax:.............................................. Mobile/cellular:.................................. Monthly Income.................................... Occupation:....................................... Best Regard, Mr Fernadez Antonio.

    5. i will love to share my testimony to you all the people in world i got married to my husband about 2 year ago we start having problems at home like we stop sleeping on the same bed,fighting about little things he always comes home late at night,drinking too much and sleeping with other women out side i have never love any man in my life except him. he is the father of my child and i don't want to loose him because we have worked so hard together to become what we are and have today .few month ago he now decided to live me and the kid,being a single mother can be hard sometimes and so i have nobody to turn to and i was heart broken.i called my mom and explain every thing to her,my mother told me about DR.okoro how he helped her solve the problem between her and my dad i was surprise about it because they have been without each other for three and a half years and it was like a miracle how they came back to each other. i was directed to DR. okoro on his email:okorospell@gmail.com and explain everything to him,so he promise me not to worry that he will cast a spell and make things come back to how we where so much in love again and that it was another female spirit that was controlling my husband he told me that my problem will be solved within two days if i believe i said OK So he cast a spell for me and after two days my love came back asking me to forgive him i Am so happy now. so that why i decided to share my experience with every body that have such problem contact Dr okoro the great spell caster on his email addresses spellcasterforlove@outlook.com