Iowa State to study potential multi-use development district between football and basketball venues
AMES, Ia.— Arguing that it will "transform" the city and the school, Iowa State University Athletic Director Jamie Pollard announced a plan Tuesday morning for a new entertainment complex next to Jack Trice Stadium.
“This isn’t your father’s athletics department," he said during a news conference. "This is an athletics department that has a bold vision for where we want to go."
The vision itself is a bit light on details, so far. Pollard did not have specific answers about what the complex would look like, how much it would cost or when Cyclone students and fans would be able to enjoy it. But consultants with the real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield will be in Ames on Friday to kick off a $300,000 feasibility study for the project.
Pollard envisions building restaurants, shops and other entertainment options, such as an ice-skating rink, on the parking lot directly north of the stadium. The athletic department would then pave a new lot to the east of the stadium and build a walking bridge connecting it to the field's entrance.
Pollard said it was too early to predict the cost of the project. He said the Ames Convention & Visitors Bureau will share the cost of the feasibility study with the university athletic department. They haven't yet decided how much each side will spend, he said.
As for a timeline, Pollard said he expects the first phase of the feasibility study to last three to four months. Cushman & Wakefield will research what kind of shops the center could support, given the size and wealth of the city (as well as how many people show up for Saturday football games).
A second Cushman & Wakefield study will tell athletic department officials how they can actually get the project done. Most importantly, they will look at how to partner with a builder.
Pollard said he wants to contract with a developer, leasing the 41-acre space.
He also floated the idea of building a hotel and convention center, as well as a new practice center for the Iowa State wrestling and volleyball teams.
Pollard first raised the idea during his introductory meeting with university President Wendy Wintersteen, who was appointed in October 2017.
“We’re parking cars on our ocean-front land on the beach," Pollard said of the parking lot where he hopes to build. "What can we do on that beachfront property to generate additional revenue?”
Members of the Iowa State University Research Park will also oversee the building plans. Rick Sanders, president of that university division, offered an "If you build it, they will come" proclamation on Tuesday. He said a new entertainment area also could attract more talent to the university.
“We have the opportunity to be that Silicon Valley-esque place when it comes to all things ag tech and bio renewable," he said. "It’s not going to happen by accident. There’s a lot of other places competing for that. And the reality is, we’ve got to put our best foot forward in every single area if we aspire for something like that. This is a great kick-off point.”
The athletic department does not receive any funds from the university, though this year it did budget for a $17.4 million gift from the university's foundation, the fund-raising arm of the university. The foundation is the third-largest revenue source for athletics, behind contracts with the NCAA and the Big 12 Conference ($39.9 million this year) and ticket sales ($17.6 million).
The athletic department also donates money to the university. This year, it budgeted a $10 million gift for "beautification" between Jack Trice Stadium and Reiman Gardens — right around the corner from the newly announced complex.
Pollard compared his vision for the property to Kansas City's Power & Light District, which sits next to the basketball stadium where the Cyclones compete in the Big 12 Conference Championship.
He also name-checked Titletown, the entertainment district that sits next to the Green Bay Packers' Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The area includes a brewery, restaurants, an ice-skating park and an open field. A second phase is underway.
The Green Bay comparison could be realistic, athletic department spokesman Steve Malchow said, given the similar climate and size of the cities. Compared to bigger cities, Green Bay's population is about 100,000. (Ames' population is about 66,000, but the football stadium alone seats about 60,000 fans.)
"It's a huge responsibility," Pollard said. "But I think both Rick (Sanders) and I welcome the challenge. It's too late to change our minds now."
Sierra A. Porter covers entertainment for the Register. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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