Business partner sought for proposed Broad Ripple Park event center

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The Indianapolis Parks Department is proposing the creation of public-private partnership to help pay for a new family event center at Broad Ripple Park.

Deputy Mayor Jeff Bennett discussed the concept Wednesday during a public pre-meeting of the Metropolitan Development Commission, saying the idea would be to work with a health care provider on the development of a building that would replace the existing park center—an 11,000-square foot building built in 1986 and last updated in 2003.

He said a financing and development model has not yet been finalized, so it is not yet clear how much taxpayer money could be spent on the project.

The new family and event center at Broad Ripple Park is part of the department’s efforts to implement a master plan for the park that was finalized in August, Indy Parks and Recreation Director Linda Broadfoot said.

The master plan calls for a new event center and outdoor aquatic area, a revamped river walk and updated sports fields, among other improvements. The parks board last year approved spending $70 million over 20 years to improve the park.

Bennett said capital improvement projects in the parks department have long been difficult due to a tight annual budget, the high cost of new buildings and a lack of development expertise in the department.

He said the parks department hopes to work with the Department of Metropolitan Development on the Broad Ripple Park project, starting with a land transfer to DMD. That request is expected to come up during the MDC’s Jan. 16 meeting.

While only one health care group responded to a general request for information sent out last year, additional providers could express interest in a potential collaboration once a formal request for proposals is sent out in the coming weeks, Bennett said. He said the proposals will be limited to health care providers.

The property and land will remain city-owned, even if the project ultimately takes the form of a public-private collaboration, per state statutes.

The partner health care group would maintain a presence in the building and likely cover a portion of the costs associated with the center's development and construction. It would offer a limited array of primary care and outpatient services, he said. Initial plans call for the center to be about 75,000 square feet.

Bennett said the concept is similar to what’s been done at some local YMCA branches in recent years, including the locations at CityWay and Avondale Meadows, which offer basic health care services on-site.

He said a partnership would “help us cover costs” associated with a new center, in addition to increasing resources for those who use the park. The move comes at a time when the city is exploring new ways to find monetary resources for the aging parks system.

Broadfoot said the existing center, which in 2018 hosted more than 400 events, is “much beloved, but pretty tired and pretty maxed out,” proving too small to accommodate an increasing demand for space. The building served as the Broad Ripple Library from 1986 to 2000, before the branch was replaced by the larger Glendale branch of the Indianapolis Public Library system.

The building will ultimately be torn down to make room for new construction, she said.

Broad Ripple Park is one of 211 public parks in Indianapolis, which occupy a total of more than 11,250 acres. The 62-acre park includes 10 acres of woods, a baseball diamond, several multi-use fields, a playground, a dog park and a boat ramp. The park first opened in the 1920s as an amusement park.

In recent years, safety concerns have risen about some of the park's facilities, including its swimming pool.

A timeline for the new building has not been finalized, Broadfoot said.

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