IUPUI seeking funds from CIB to renovate Natatorium

IUPUI says it needs about $15 million to renovate the aging Natatorium swimming complex and wants the city’s Capital Improvement Board to fund part of the expense.

Roger Schmenner, chief of staff of IUPUI’s chancellor’s office, presented the proposal to CIB members at their monthly meeting Monday afternoon.

Under the proposal, the CIB would provide nearly $4.4 million by giving IUPUI 40 percent of the funds it receives from hotel taxes generated by the University Place hotel over the next 16 years.

The General Assembly last session approved a 1-percent increase in Marion County’s hotel tax, allowing the CIB to capture an additional $3.4 million in annual revenue.

“We have a great asset for Indianapolis that is hurting,” Schmenner said. “You just can’t let an asset like this deteriorate.”

Schmenner said IUPUI’s plan to upgrade the Natatorium, which has hosted Olympic trials, is supported by the Indiana Sports Corp., NCAA and others that would help fund the project.

Leaks in the 27-year-old facility’s roof have damaged walls and flooded walkways, IUPUI  officials said. In addition, the instructional pool’s flooring is in poor condition and its hydraulics are broken.

Schmenner acknowledged the cash-strapped CIB may seem like an unlikely source to help fund the renovations, but he said the university needed to start somewhere.

The CIB operates the city’s professional sports venues and Indiana Convention Center.

It began the year staring at a projected $47 million budget deficit in 2010, partly due to rising operating costs for Conseco Fieldhouse and Lucas Oil Stadium.

The organization has improved its financial standing by making $26 million in cuts this year and by avoiding $25.5 million in debt-service reserve payments. It also is poised to collect roughly $11 million more in annual revenue.
The moves have helped the CIB reduce its operating budget from $78 million at the beginning of this year to a proposed $63 million in 2010, although the organization anticipates spending as little as $52 million.

CIB Treasurer Ann Lathrop, who becomes president next month, said the CIB would consider IUPUI’s proposal despite its financial problems.

“There are challenges going forward,” she said. “It’s probably going to be a long time before we’re flush with cash.”

Lathrop suggested IUPUI also seek funding from the Indiana General Assembly and the Indianapolis Stadium & Convention Building Authority. Money generated by the regional food and beverage tax flows through the ISCBA to help fund the Indiana Convention Center expansion.

The CIB’s finances also should get a boost from a three-year $27 million state loan that the organization has chosen to accept. It had to decide whether to take the loan by the end of the year or risk losing it. 

The additional funds could help in the organization’s ongoing negotiations with the Indiana Pacers.
A provision that allows the Pacers to break its lease after 10 years could put the city on the hook for $15 million in annual Conseco Fieldhouse operating costs. An agreement has yet to be reached, although CIB officials continue to negotiate with the team.

Lathrop has asked CIB President Pat Early to continue his role negotiating with the team, even though his term on the CIB officially expires at the end of the year.

“I am going to continue doing that for however long it takes, within reason,” Early said.

He and others continue to meet with Pacers executives at least once a week. Early said other factors, such as the length of a new contract, are involved in the negotiations besides the operating cost.

Mayor Greg Ballard honored Early at the meeting for his 17 years of service to the CIB by proclaiming Dec. 14 “Pat Early Day.”

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