Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard has thrown his support behind a plan for the city to chip in roughly half of the nearly $20 million price tag for renovations needed at IUPUI’s Natatorium.
Indiana University still is working out how it will pay for the remainder after the city contributes $9.5 million. As part of the still-developing arrangement for the future of the 31-year-old swimming facility, IU also says it’s seeking greater involvement in Natatorium management and event marketing from a partnership of local sports organizations.
And a portion of city hospitality taxes could be set aside for future maintenance, said Ryan Vaughn, Ballard’s chief of staff . . .
“It’s part of our core sports economy here in Indianapolis,” Vaughn said. “That is a huge driver for us. (The building) needs a refresh. And it very much is a community asset.”Okay, here are the only facts that city taxpayers need to know. Firstly, this is a building owned by a state university, which has its own budget to maintain buildings, construct new ones and identify generous donors whose vanity in having a building named after them is all it takes to fork over the money needed if funds are unavailable. The City of Indianapolis is not legally obligated in any way to build, maintain or operate university-owned property. If this building is as important as city leaders say it is, then why has it not been a priority for Indiana University to maintain it as a "world class facility." This building is not just a natatorium; it also serves as the basketball arena for IUPUI's basketball team, which gets at least as much use out of the building as its use as a natatorium. Finally, if the City has this kind of money to spare, then it should be used to fund basic city services. This same administration is in the process of trying to privatize some or all of the city's parks and recreational facilities because it says it can't afford to maintain them with existing funding, while it wastes money on a new sports facility for cricket. Why would we be giving away a chunk of money to a university that always has money for everything it deems important when we can't afford to maintain what we are responsible for maintaining? They are looking to spend as much money to renovate this building as it cost to build in 1982.
Instead of discussing any of the relevant issues, the reporter dishes out the typical meme about how much economic development spin off value this facility supposedly brings to the city because of events it draws to the city. The Natatorium only has a seating capacity of 4,700. Larger swimming events are already being hosted at Banker's Life Fieldhouse instead of the Natatorium. As I've pointed out before, there are numerous high school football and basketball facilities in the area that draw more people on an annual basis than the Natatorium. It's not unusual for participants to outnumber attendees at events hosted at the Natatorium. They can hype it all they want, but the reality is that it has very little impact on the local economy. Butler's Hinkle Fieldhouse dwarfs the Natatorium when it comes to economic impact. Are city taxpayers paying to maintain it? At some point, an adult has to enter the room and tell the downtown mafia that there are limits to what they can expect city taxpayers to continue paying for sports facilities to the detriment of funding basic city services. That adult is obviously not going to come from the ranks of the local news media or the people we foolishly entrust with making these spending decisions.