IU leaders question wisdom of parking lease plan

Indiana University leaders said they aren't certain that they'll move ahead with a proposal to seek a multimillion-dollar payout by turning over parking facilities on the Bloomington and Indianapolis campuses to a private operator.

The university's Board of Trustees agreed Thursday to hire a financial adviser to study the possibility of a 30- or 50-year lease, although some trustees and faculty representatives questioned whether it would be good financial move, The Herald-Times reported.

University administrators estimated a lease could generate a $250 million payment, but IU would first have to pay off $75 million in parking construction debt.

"I think we have to take a look at this," university President Michael McRobbie said. "Every single source of revenue open to the university is open to threat. So we have to be creative."

The presidents of the Bloomington and Indianapolis faculty councils both told trustees that many people were concerned about a private operator taking over parking and the prospect of rate increases.

"There has been a groundswell of opposition to the project," said Carolyn Calloway-Thomas, head of the Bloomington Faculty Council.

Trustees Pat Shoulders and Phil Eskew Jr. have expressed opposition to the parking plan.

Eskew asked why, if the university needed additional money, it wouldn't raise parking rates on its own and not be tied to a long-term lease.

"It's a proposal to meet an undefined need," Shoulders said.

Neil Theobald, the university's chief financial officer, said a committee studying the lease possibility had determined the plan shouldn't take away game day parking revenues from athletics or parking revenue from the student housing department, which uses that money for facilities maintenance.

McRobbie said he didn't know what decision would be made about the lease proposal.

"It's not clear it is a great deal," McRobbie said.

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Editor's note: IBJ is now using a new comment system. Your Disqus account will no longer work on the IBJ site. Instead, you can leave a comment on stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Past comments are not currently showing up on stories, but they will be added in the coming weeks. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.