Carver project reaches crunch time

IOWA CITY — Iowa has reached a crossroads in its efforts for a new basketball practice facility and Carver-Hawkeye Arena renovation.

 

The school has raised between $8 million and $10 million for the $47 million project, which was approved by the state Board of Regents last June. Architects have design plans, and athletics officials plan to meet soon to discuss the project’s status.

 

“What we are calling it is design development, which is sort of our draft of what we want,” said Jane Meyer, Iowa’s senior associate athletics director. “It’s a wish list. It’s everything that people would want. Now what we have to decide is how you price that.”

 

Amid a massive economic downturn, fundraising efforts are not as plentiful, although the department still is receiving high-dollar pledges for the project. Iowa hopes to raise $20 million with annual debt service ranging from $1.7 million in 2010 to $3.3 million in 2034. Iowa’s athletics department is self-sufficient and does not accept funding from the university or the state.

 

It appears unlikely Iowa will raise $20 million. Previously, Athletics Director Gary Barta said the department doesn’t need to reach $20 million but wants to reach a comfortable financial level before proceeding. The $47 million price tag is not a solid number, Meyer said.

 

“What we’re saying is it still the target or not?” she said. “Or do we need to make some different choices? That is what we are waiting on right now, just … (making) sure everything is in the box and that we can afford what’s in the box.”

 

Premium seating will pay for most — if not all — the debt service. The athletics department expects to generate $21.5 million from club and courtside seating over 10 years.

 

The arena renovation calls for 100 courtside seats in two rows and 550 club seats for men’s basketball, which would replace the current collapse-style bleachers. First-row courtside seating requires a 10-year commitment of $10,000 annually per seat, and those donors also would be required to donate $15,000 to the athletics department for each seat annually for five years. Each second-row courtside seat would cost $5,000 annually per seat for 10 years and donors must contribute $7,000 per seat annually for five years.

 

Iowa plans to reseat about 4,500 seats, about 30 percent of the arena.

 

Perhaps more topical is the upgraded basketball practice facility, slated for construction north of Carver-Hawkeye Arena. It includes two full-size practice gymnasiums, a strength area, locker rooms and offices. Both basketball teams and the volleyball team practice at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, which create multiple issues.

 

“We have a problem here,” Iowa men’s basketball coach Todd Lickliter said Monday. “We don’t have a facility that is open all of the time.

 

“Where I came from, if a guy wanted to work out at 9 a.m. due to his class schedule, that is what he did. That is not available here. We have to work through that issue.”

 

Meyer said she has discussed the project in detail with Lickliter and his staff.

 

“They’ve been kept up to speed all along with us showing them different ideas,” Meyer said. “They’ve been up to speed in regards to we’re looking at the courts and all that stuff. They’ve been involved, but they’re not intimately involved because at some point we’re going to go to them and say do you want the outlet here? Do you want the video screen here? Those are the things that at some point we’ll go into much greater details. But they have seen conceptual ideas.”

 

Meyer emphasized Tuesday during a Presidential Committee on Athletics meeting that the project was vital to upgrade the arena and reduce practice congestion. But the price tag is what is keeping the university from its design development phase to construction documents and bidding.

 

“Everybody wants everything. Kinnick has been a wonderful model for us. We got almost everything that we wanted the key part is the functionality. It’s a very nice base, but it’s very functional and it works. And that’s what we’re looking at as well.”

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