IOWA CITY — Turmoil involving the Iowa men’s basketball program has failed to dampen enthusiasm for a new basketball practice facility and Carver-Hawkeye Arena renovation.
Mark Jennings, Iowa’s associate athletics director for donor and patron services, said the department has received between $8 million and $9 million in pledges for the $47 million project.
“As news comes out of the one of the sports offices, it really doesn’t affect this project because no matter if a player stays or if a player leaves, we’ve got to have the project,” Jennings said. “We’ve got to have the facility. That doesn’t slow us up any. We just keep going forward and stay positive about the project.
“Most of the people we’re seeing have been Hawkeye fans for a long time, and they’re going to be Hawkeye fans for a lot longer – no matter what players are here or gone. Thank God they feel that way.”
Four Iowa men’s basketball players have left the team within the last couple of days. Junior guard Jermain Davis said Wednesday he had obtained his scholarship release to play for Minnesota State-Mankato, a Division II school. Sophomore Jake Kelly likely is headed to an Indiana college, while sophomore Jeff Peterson and junior David Palmer also are leaving.
Both Jennings and Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta said the school still plans to break ground on the new facility this fall. That counters recent rumors that Iowa will wait another year before starting on the new facility.
“No, absolutely not,” Jennings said when asked if the project is delayed. “Now, things can change. If by June the economy … who knows what the future is going to bring. But, no, right now we’re right on schedule. The plan is this fall we’re going to breaking ground.
“I wonder who starts rumors when nobody in here does?”
The basketball facility and arena renovation includes a multi-court gym for the school’s basketball and volleyball teams and a renovation to the wrestling complex. Each of those sports will receive new locker rooms, new offices for coaches and an 8,000-square foot strength and conditioning center.
The arena renovation plan includes 650 premium seats for men’s basketball. A courtside seat for men’s basketball is valued at $125,000 in giving over five years. A second-row seat will cost $60,000 over five years. There will be 50 seats in each row.
The arena also includes 550 premium club seats costing $12,500 per seat over five years. Two hospitality rooms also are included in the renovation.
The athletics departments has a goal of raising $20 million privately, and Jennings said that’s likely to happen.
The funding method is a bit different than the one presented to Iowa’s Board of Regents last summer. Barta said a bonding company provided the figures for that meeting, while the athletics department refined tailored the giving plan to donors after receiving approval.
Barta said the department received a pair of substantial gifts for the project on Thursday.
“The reception has been tremendous,” Jennings said. “I think the easy part of it is telling the story; we all know we need the facility. It’s fun to tell them about a little more about why we need the facility.”
The school also has naming opportunities for major donors. The Howard family of Iowa Falls donated $3.5 million toward the renovation and secured naming rights for their pavilion. The school has set naming rights for the basketball court at $5 million.
“I do want to emphasize the name Carver-Hawkeye Arena will not change,” Jennings said. “That will always be there.”
Jennings said in the last two days he’s had six meetings with different people about the project “and all six were nothing but positive.” Jennings and other department officials will have low-key discussions with potential donors during the I-Club’s spring banquet circuit. Lickliter is slated to speak at 11 banquets this spring as a member of the gold team.
“It’s a very important part of (increasing donations),” Jennings said of Lickliter meeting with patrons on I-Club trips.
“We know we’ve got to get this done. And we’re going to get it done.”