Iowa athletics' expenses soar with capital projects

Iowa's debt service costs grow by $19 million in two-year period

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IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa's athletics department has a 2012 fiscal-year snapshot that shows it bleeding red ink, but that's hardly the case in real-time finances, Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta said Thursday.

The department's 2012 expenses totaled nearly $104.66 million, $6.755 million more than it received in revenue, according to the school's annual NCAA financial report acquired by The Gazette via the Freedom of Information Act. Single-year expenses grew by $16.6 million from 2011 mostly because of a massive increase in facility improvements, which made the 2012 shortfall expected.

"It doesn't concern me because it’s working out the way we planned," Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta said. "We’ve brought in some funds, some contributions the last few years and now a lot of those expenses are coming through. We have money to cover it."

For nearly 10 years the department has raised funds for new and renovated facilities. From 2005 through the 2011 fiscal year, Iowa's books show a surplus — $19.6 million combined in 2010 and 2011 — with money earmarked for current and future capital projects. Those include a Kinnick Stadium renovation ($89 million, 2006), a Carver-Hawkeye Arena renovation/new practice facility ($47 million, 2011) and the first phase of a new indoor football practice facility ($20 million, 2012).

In 2012, Iowa spent $7.6 million toward the new football practice facility and $5 million toward Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Those expenses have helped Iowa's maintenance and debt service costs grow. The 2012 price tag was $33.35 million, $19 million more than in 2010.

That number could rise next year. The department has bids out on the second phase of its football practice facility with a 2014 target date. That phases, which includes offices, a strength and conditioning center and locker rooms, has a $35 million estimate.

"There might be a couple of more years where we’re planning more expense than revenue because right now, for example, we’re obviously bidding for phase II," Barta said. "We don’t yet know exactly when that’s going to start, what the price is going to be, and we don’t know exactly when we’re going to start paying the bills on that one.

"I certainly don’t expect we’ll have more expense than revenue once we get these big facilities paid down, but there might be other years when we do, and we’ll always have the cash to pay for them."

Iowa athletics' revenues grew to $97.9 million last year, up nearly $4.65 million from 2011. Iowa's ticket income jumped by more than $2 million to $25.24 million and its NCAA/Big Ten revenue grew to $26.266 million. For the first time Iowa's largest revenue source comes from the Big Ten and its media deals. Private contributions dipped slightly from $26.622 million in 2011 to $26.005 million last year.

Iowa's athletics department, unlike many of its peers, is self-sustaining and receives no state or university funding. It absorbs all scholarship costs, which soared to nearly $10.3 million, a more than $900,000 increase from 2011. 

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