Sports tenants ponder vacating Pan Am Plaza: Four national governing bodies could share office

The Pan Am Plaza building, constructed to provide office space for amateur sports organizations, may soon be losing three of its highest-profile tenants.

USA Gymnastics, USA Diving and U.S. Synchronized Swimming are contemplating moving out of the building at 201 S. Capitol Ave., sources close to the organizations said.

A fourth group, USA Track & Field, which is preparing to move from the RCA Dome, is considering joining the other three sports-governing bodies in shared office space-preferably downtown. USATF will lose its home later this year as the RCA Dome is torn down to make way for a $275 million convention center expansion.

The four organizations could land at the Disciples of Christ building at 130 E. Washington St., said local real estate and sports business sources. Officials for NAI Olympia Partners, a locally based real estate brokerage firm that handles the Disciples of Christ building, declined to comment.

“We’re looking at how we might have some synergies with the other three governing bodies in town,” said Terry Harper, U.S. Synchronized Swimming executive director. “We’re looking at sharing services, opportunities, everything, including possibly office space.”

Jill Geer, USATF director of communications, said sharing office space with the other three national governing bodies is one of several options her organization is contemplating.

“We prefer to stay in downtown Indianapolis, so that’s where we’re looking first,” Geer said. “I don’t know that a decision on anything has been made yet.”

One thing, though, is certain, Harper said.

“I don’t think there’s anybody that wants to move out of Indianapolis,” she said.

The four governing bodies have a significant economic impact. Combined, they have about 100 employees and annual budgets of $30 million.

The organizations also draw a significant number of visitors, from committee meetings and annual conventions to national and international competitions.

The potential move was news to officials for National Football Scouting, which occupies space on the Pan Am Plaza building’s fourth floor adjacent to offices for USA Gymnastics, USA Diving and U.S. Synchronized Swimming.

“I’m surprised to hear that,” said Jeffrey Foster, president of NFS, which scouts for numerous National Football League teams and runs the annual NFL scouting combine. “I can tell you, we have no plans to leave. The building’s location near hotels, the convention center and stadium are ideal.”

It is not clear why the sports governing bodies would want to vacate the Pan Am building. Officials for USA Gymnastics and USA Diving did not return calls seeking comment.

Officials for California-based Coastal Partners LLC, which now owns the building, did not return calls seeking comment. Coastal bought the building from the not-for-profit Indiana Sports Corp. for $8 million in 2003.

With the building now in the hands of a for-profit business, and with the convention center expansion about to launch and construction of Lucas Oil Stadium under way, several sources close to parties involved said the move was motivated by economics.

Indiana Sports Corp., which did not pay property taxes, could presumably afford to charge rents that are lower than the market rate, which local real estate experts estimated at $16 to $18 a square foot per month.

The 138,800-square-foot building is 94.5- percent occupied, according to Costar Property, a Maryland-based real estate research firm. The three national governing bodies occupy more than 18,000 square feet combined, according to Costar.

The Pan Am parcel sits southeast of Georgia Street and Capitol Avenue, and is surrounded by the RCA Dome, Lucas Oil Stadium, Union Station and Circle Centre mall. It’s a prime property developers have eyed for years.

“This piece of real estate is part of a dynamic, changing situation,” said Milt Thompson, president of locally based Grand Slam Cos. and an Indiana Sports Corp. board member.

Thompson said the ISC could move from the building as the area develops.

“Commercial development becomes much more attractive there when the convention center expansion and stadium are done,” Thompson said.

ISC President Susan Williams was not available to comment.

“ISC has a current lease until 2010,” said ISC spokesman John Dedman in an e-mail. “When the time is right, we will look at all available options.”

Despite the possible moves, Thompson said support for the city to retain these sports governing bodies is not waning.

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