Mayor pushing plan to use city funds to upgrade Natatorium

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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.



  • Couldn't we host this elsewhere?
    I know there's a lot of affection for IU Natatorium around here and a lot of history. But how often does it host events of this scale? Not very. We've already hosted a major aquatic event at the Fieldhouse with a temporary pool, and that can hold a lot more people. The Nat gets used all the time, of course, so there's a need for the pool and diving space, but is there a need for a dedicated swimming venue with 4,400 seats? Really?
  • Do you know
    Do you know that the sewer project you are referring to won't actually fix the problem? According to the (working) link below, "When the project is complete, sewage overflows into Indiana waterways will be significantly reduced." http://www.citizensenergygroup.com/Projects/IndianapolisStorageTunnel.aspx So raw sewage will in fact still be poured directly into the White River. But I do suppose a little bit of e coli is better than a lot of e coli.
  • Silly argument
    Comparing this to investments made at Lucas Oil, Banker's Life and Victory Field is just silly. We aren't talking about the Super Bowl and a full season of Pacers/Fever/Colts/Indians games, plus concerts, Final Fours and convention traffic. We are talking about financing a diving competition every few years. Let it sink in. Diving.
  • Good Use of Funds
    Good use of funds! I support the Mayor on this one.
  • excessive
    I don't have a problem with the city investing in it's core. I was all for building Victory Field, Conseco Fieldhouse, and Lucas Oil Stadium. That doesn't mean that I am in favor of the city investing in any project that is labeled as desirable. The 2016 Olympic Diving Trials could be held at the fieldhouse. The city spending $500,000 per year to maintain the IUPUI Natatorium is an excessive unnecessary expense.
  • If it's sports, it must be good.
    If it is for mass transit, police force, and many other needed civic projects, forget it. If it ''ain't'' sports, ''ain't'' worth spending money on. Too bad this is the general attitude of Indy leaders. Forget the arts----who needs it. Right?
  • Is Indy Sports Strategy Failing?
    Christmas Will Come Early For IU If Mayor Greg Ballard Gets His Way http://advanceindiana.blogspot.com/2013/11/christmas-will-come-early-for-iu-if.html?m=1
  • Detroit
    Proud of Indy, you obviously don't know much about Detroit. Detroit employed a major sports strategy spending a fortune to subsidize professional sports downtown. Detroit's political leaders subsidized one development after another downtown while not spending money on basic services. Detroit never got the revenue on the investment they claimed they would get and had to file bankruptcy. That's the path Indy is on with this liberal, big spending, big taxing mayor.
  • Proud of Indy
    Detroit never invested in its core. All the glory years of US auto manufacturing and they never developed the core of their city. Now look at what the city has become. Having a core is a essential especially if you don't have lakes, mountains or rivers as attractions.
  • Self Pride
    There are some of us that take enough pride in what we do individually that our sense of being is not based upon a public building or an athletic team that we force other people to finance. By the way Detroit ended up as it is not because of a lack of excessive government spending but because of it.
    • Do you know
      Downtown resident. "like fixing our sewers that flow directly into the river" Maybe you didn't know there is a 180 million dollar project to fix the sewers http://www.undergroundconstructionmagazine.com/indy%E2%80%99s-deep-rock-tunnel-project-progressing. And how about all those miles of bike and trails around downtown to make things better. Get over it and figure it out
    • Proud of Indy
      Why don't all the complainers move to sleepy cities or towns that don't spend money creating a desirable destination for progressive organizations to visit and make Indy a special amateur sports community. I'm sure Detroit, Peoria, Cleveland or Toledo would be glad to have you.
      • DUM-DUM-DA-DUM
        And as usual our "mayor" can find more ways to blow the peoples tax money on sports. I understand a world class cricket arena is in the future or perhaps a Jai-alai stadium Anything that lines the pockets of the rich is ok with this fool
      • redundant facility
        Banker's Life Fieldhouse has been used to host swimming events in the past. While I'm assuming that conversion process is quite expensive it can't be in the ballpark of contributing ten million dollars to maintain the IUPUI Natatorium.
      • Must be kidding
        This is getting ridiculous. How about spending money on things the city and its residents might find of value, like fixing our sewers that flow directly into the river, or beefing up our laughable public transit? Greg Ballard is a fool.
        • Here we go again
          Give away Gregg- should be our mayors new name. I do not understand, the other money grubbers require about 30%, while the pool needs 50% participation. Mayor you will not pay the police but you continue to privitize profit and socialize costs.
        • Curious
          The endowments of IU and Purdue are what?
        • Who benefits?
          Thank you Zach Adamson. I understand the benefit the city receives from this venue, but please hold their feet to the fire on this one.

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