Pan Am Plaza to get major repairs

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One of the most well-known places in downtown Indianapolis will soon get an overhaul. Pan Am Plaza at Georgia and Illinois streets is fenced off and ready for major repairs.

The city built Pan Am Plaza in 1987. It was a legacy of the Pan Am Games, which Indianapolis hosted.

Mary Jane DiFiore, one of many volunteers back then, said, "Oh yes, it was a big deal."

Walking by the rundown site now, she said it's about time it was fixed up.

"I was surprised to see the stones loose around the fountain and some tipped over. I think it's dangerous. It's good the fence is up," she said.

The city's Department of Code Enforcement ordered the plaza and portions of the garage below closed last fall because of structural issues, concerns that took on added urgency with the upcoming Super Bowl.

While the short-term problems were quickly addressed, long-term problems lingered. For years, water has leaked into both the garage and the adjacent Indiana World Skating Academy, which opened right after the Pan Am games.

Executive Director Pam Robinson pointed to water damage in a back office and an unused locker room.

"When it rains outside, we know, because it rains inside," she said. "We spend a lot of time scrambling around with the waste baskets trying to catch the water then trying to empty it. But if it rains at night and no one's here, we frequently walk in and find it flooded."

Robinson doesn't have to worry about that much longer. Kite Realty, which bought the plaza in 2008, is having it fixed per an agreement with owner of the underground garage.

A spokesperson for Kite said everything will be torn out, including the bricks, the fountain and the flagpoles so the plaza can be water-proofed and redone with new pavers, lights and a "more open feel."

Robinson said she's "thrilled" about that not just for the people that work at the skating academy but for all those who skate there. She's hopeful the work will be done before the next major event in early August.

The Skating Academy is hosting the largest competition for pair teams in the world.

"Showing people the way the plaza used to be and how it will be in the future is a great opportunity" to showcase the city, she said.

While Kite eventually plans to build a large mixed-use development on the site, it will maintain the plaza as a public space until then.

Terry Sweeney with Downtown Indianapolis, Inc. is hopeful the plaza will once again become a destination of sorts.

Sweeney said, "The timing is perfect with the completion of Georgia Street. The $12.5 million venue is becoming a magnet for visitors and locals to gather at and with the history of Pan Am Plaza. It will be great to have them linked together."

Per its agreement with the city, Kite will maintain the plaques and a few other mementos of the 1987 games. It's also looking at the whether the torches, which haven't worked for years, can be fixed.

The plaza repairs should be done by end of summer.