Natatorium to get more money from CIB

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The City's Capital Improvement Board will vote on a resolution Monday to help cover ongoing maintenance at the IUPUI Natatorium to the tune of $5 million over the next ten years.

The resolution calls for the Indiana Sports Corporation to manage the capital fund. It will get $500,000 a year for the next ten years from the CIB.

The arrangement comes a month after Indiana University, the Lilly Endowment and the City of Indianapolis agreed to a $30 million deal to renovate the 32-year-old venue. IU and the Lilly Endowment agreed to pitch in $10 million each to pay for much-needed repairs estimated to cost close to $20 million, while the city agreed to cover $10 million in infrastructure and traffic improvements on the IUPUI campus.

At the time of the announcement, no one mentioned who could cover utilities and ongoing maintenance, which IU has said costs around $1 million a year.

Democratic City County Councilor Zach Adamson said he hadn't heard about the funding plan and questioned it.

Adamson said, "We don't have enough money to make the city function at its barest minimum for things like Animal Care and Control and public safety and paving roads, but again we always seem to find these enormous amounts of money for things unrelated to the city."

While the CIB owns or runs the city's sports venues including Bankers Life Fieldhouse and Lucas Oil Stadium, the Natatorium is owned by IU.

"I value the Nat. I think they're an amazing asset for us, IUPUI and IU, but they don't belong to us - they belong to IU and IUPUI, and they have a substantial trust fund," Adamson said.

Eyewitness News was unable to reach anyone from the CIB, Sports Corp or mayor's office, but the resolution stresses "the prestigious swimming and diving events at the IU Natatorium, such as the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials, which generate significant economic impact for the city of Indianapolis..."

Michael Phelps competing at the IU Natatorium (WTHR file photo)
PHOTO: Michael Phelps competing at the IU Natatorium

The Nat has hosted numerous world-class events over the years as well youth meets and recreational swimming.

During the July announcement, Arlene McDonald with Indiana Swimming said, "There's just been a long history of great performances at the Natatorium. This facility has provided our Indiana athletes the opportunity to not only compete but to witness some of the best swimming in the world."

The idea of the CIB helping the Nat financially isn't new. In 2009, IUPUI asked the board to consider assigning 40 percent of the food and beverage, and hotel taxes generated by IUPUI's University Place Hotel (which has since been converted to student housing) for maintenance.

And in March of 2013, Deputy Mayor Deron Kintner told Eyewitness News there were renewed talks about the CIB possibly sharing some tax revenue.

Kintner said, "It's certainly worthy of discussion, especially if you're looking at the lost revenue that would occur if the Nat were to close."

The city, IU, the CIB and Sports Corp have been negotiating for several years on a way to pay for the repairs and continued maintenance.

PHOTO: Damage and infrastructure degradation can be found in several areas of the Natatorium

Part of the challenge has been that after the Nat was built in 1982 for events like the National Sports Festival, it was given to the university but without any capital fund for ongoing maintenance and depreciation.

Many of the repairs were deferred.

CIB President Ann Lathrop wrote in an email that additional funding, "will allow the Sports Corporation to create a restricted capital fund for those venues that are not CIB owned. It is anticipated that the Sports Corp board will pledge these dollars first to the Natatorium until a reasonable capital fund is accumulated so that needed repairs are not deferred as they have been in the past."

Lathrop said the CIB money would come from "existing fund balances."

Council President Maggie Lewis who also sits on the CIB, said like Adamson, she too was surprised to hear of the arrangement, having thought the Nat was a "done deal."  She said she looked forward to getting more answers before Monday's meeting.

The funding measure does not need council approval or any other authorization.

The Sports Corp currently receives $150,000 a year from the CIB. Black expo and arts organizations also receive annual grants from the CIB.