CIB signs off on grant for improvements to Natatorium


The city's Capital Improvement Board signed off on a grant to cover capital improvements at the IUPUI Natatorium.

As Eyewitness News first reported Saturday, the CIB will be giving the Indiana Sports Corp $500,000 a year for ten years to cover ongoing maintenance at the Natatorium.

The vote was 5-2 in favor, with Doug Brown and City-County Council President Maggie Lewis voting no.

Lewis called it "unnecessary," given the $10 million the city recently agreed to contribute. Last month, Indiana University and the Lilly Endowment each agreed to contribute $10 million to make much-needed repairs to the 32-year-old venue.

Part of that deal also included the city spending $10 million on street and infrastructure improvements on the IUPUI campus.

CIB President Ann Lathrop said the city will get back "half a million to $800,000" in direct tax revenue, "depending on what events you have, but I think even more importantly is the unpaid media and mentions."

Indiana Sports Corp President Allison Melangton said, "The Nat is a critical part of our recruiting opportunities to bring sports to Indianapolis, particular aquatic events."

At least one city-county councilor is not happy about the plan.

"We don't have enough money to make the city function at it's barest minimums for Animal Care and Control, public safety, paving roads, but again we always seem to find these enormous amounts of money for things that are unrelated to the functioning of the city," said City-County Councilor Zach Adamson.

He said the Natatorium does bring in significant revenue to the city, but it's not owned by the city. IU and IUPUI own it and Adamson says they have a substantial trust fund to cover such things.

The deal did not need council approval.

The board will also hear a report from the Indiana Pacers that will show, for the first time, some key expenses. We'll see what it actually costs to run Bankers Life Fieldhouse, and how much money Pacers Sports and Entertainment brings in for all the events it sponsors there.

This is a new requirement under the multi-million dollar deal, reached this spring between the Pacers and the city, that netted more than $40 million to operate Bankers Life Fieldhouse and make improvements and upgrades to the venue.

Mayor Greg Ballard outlined the plan in April amid critics calling for more money to be spent on public safety and potholes.

"Funding for this agreement cannot, by law, be used for other things like police or potholes," said Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard. "It's money generate from downtown visitors and ticket holders solely to support downtown sports and the convention center.

The hope is that by disclosing this information to the CIB and the public, there will be more transparency.

Also under the new contract, the group will have to report every June both the number of people employed at Bankers Life Fieldhouse and how much they've collected in various taxes. See the latest report here.