Report: Kansas Athletics debt on the rise

Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical workers stop to admire a wall of photographs from the Kansas University men’s hoops 2008 national championship in the northwest corner of Allen Fieldhouse. The KU athletic department put on a tour of the renovations at the fieldhouse.

Kansas Athletics Inc. has reported financial liabilities of $93.67 million for the 2008-09 fiscal year, up nearly 57 percent from a year earlier.

The total is included in documents the department filed with the Internal Revenue Service, to maintain the athletics operation’s tax-exempt status. The report is the most recent available.

The jump in liabilities came largely because of major construction projects: more than $32 million for construction, expansion and renovation at Allen Fieldhouse, the Horejsi Family Athletic Center, the Wagnon Student Athlete Center/Parrott Athletic Center and vicinity.

The filing also noted how the department had borrowed $6.5 million from the KU Endowment Association. The transaction served as a bridge loan, allowing the department to start construction of the Anderson Family Football Complex.

The loan was repaid during the fiscal year.

The report includes information about the department’s long-term debt, including liabilities of $46.565 million from tax-exempt bonds. That was up from $15.065 million a year earlier.

Kansas Athletics is repaying such bonds using private donations, and donors are maintaining their commitment to athletics through the economic downturn, said Jim Marchiony, an associate athletics director.

“They’re going great,” Marchiony said Tuesday, of donation levels. “Kansas Athletics has very loyal and generous donors. … The indication is that it is at least as strong as last year.”

The documents filed with the IRS also indicated that the department paid nearly $2.2 million to the Orange Bowl in 2008-09, ranking the bowl No. 4 on the department’s list of highest-paid independent contractors. The expense reflected the amount of money the department spent on bowl tickets, which in turn were sold by Kansas Athletics.