ISU Athletic Department is swinging for the fences in its latest facility proposal.
Athletic director Jamie Pollard — standing alongside the president of the ISU Research Park, Rick Sanders — announced Tuesday morning the Cyclones' plan to, among other things, transfer over management of the Iowa State Center from the university to the athletic department.
The transfer of oversight will, if all things come together, coincide with a massive renovation and revamping of the Center and the area surrounding it. The renovation will entail a "multi-use development district," comprised of everything from a possible hotel and convention center to a paved parking lot for up to 3,600 people — connected to the stadium by an overpass bridge — which will be converted from the grass lots across the street from Jack Trice Stadium.
“The Iowa State Center has served as an athletics, arts and engagement hub for Iowa State University and the Ames community since it was originally envisioned by former ISU President James H. Hilton," Iowa State President Wendy Wintersteen said in the initial press release. “The Iowa State Center is an incredible asset and it is time to reimagine the future of this complex in a way that continues to serve the university and greater Ames community.
"The athletics department has an extraordinary track record when it comes to creating vision and bringing that vision to life. Jamie is a tremendous leader for Iowa State University and the Ames community and the right person to lead this transformation.”
Pollard called the proposal "Vision 20/20" and began the press conference by providing the visual of a four-way intersection. He then referenced back 40 years, to the first and only time in Iowa State's history the Cyclones won eight football games in three straight seasons. The Cyclones were succeeding under Earle Bruce in the mid-to-late 70s, but the university didn't commit to football and Bruce left to coach Ohio State.
"We never found out what was on the other side," Pollard said. "And now, 40 years later, we're right back in the same intersections. And we have a responsibility as leaders to figure out how to take this community, this institution and our athletics program through that intersection and find out what's on the other side."
Pollard's goal, he said, was to not look back on the current era of Iowa State athletics with a sense of regret or longing because the university didn't go all-in.
The entire project will be in lockstep with the ISU Research Park.
"This has a chance to be transformational," Sanders said of the proposal. "Not only for Iowa State University, not only for the Ames community but for the entire cultivation corridor and everything here in Central Iowa."
The presentation Pollard went through — with images available on the athletics department's website as well as in photo galleries — was focused on each and every development proposed.
The first was the creating of a "Game-Day Plaza" in front of the stadium's north end zone, part of which is already being done — the cause of the construction around Bergstrom Sports Performance Complex.
Also in the development will be a Student Performance Center connected to North Stadium, which will serve as an academic, dining and athletic center for the school's 450 student-athletes.
"This isn't your father's athletics department," Pollard says.— noah (@noahrohlfing) September 17, 2019
One of the first developments Pollard proposed to be completed is a closure of Jack Trice Stadium, which will connect the concourses on the east and west sides of the stadium while keeping the "iconic" hills on the north side stands intact.
Pollard explained a big part of the initiative is showing commitment from the leaders of the university to keep its coaches in the program — particularly football coach Matt Campbell.
Improving donor parking was also on Pollard's list, as he discussed the Hilton Coliseum portion of the proposal. The parking lots between Hilton, Stevens and Scheman will be critical to Pollard's proposal, although he was adamant it would not reduce parking, but add more parking available for fans.
The overhaul of the school's recreation center will irrigate, put lights in and enclose the recreation area, Pollard said. This will provide not just an image change — Pollard referred to the recreation fields as often being a "wasteland to the right" — but the design of the renovation left space open for the athletic department to build a pedestrian bridge, which will connect the paved parking lots to a Jack Trice Stadium gate.
This move would improve parking flow and provide a better experience for fans, Pollard said.
"If you don't give people the vision of what it is, people just get stymied by 'it'll never happen,'" Pollard said. "Every time you try to talk about this space, the first thing Cyclone fans do is [ask], 'What about my parking?' So that's why a big part of this is the bridge, the parking.
"I'm here to assure you that we're not going to impact tailgating."
But perhaps the most ambitious part of the entire proposal is the Iowa State Center's development project, which would provide Iowa State with opportunities for hotels, conference centers and an entertainment area Pollard wants to become the "Power and Light District of Ames, Iowa."
The parking lots would be more pedestrian-friendly, and the entertainment district would be away from the neighborhoods that brush up against the center, Pollard said.
Pollard at the time was not prepared to have a monetary cost figure or a timetable for the entire project's completion. Pollard did say the group is going into its initial stages with the intention of funding it through private financing with developers.
The first stage of the project is going to be a three-to-four month market feasibility study completed by a real estate firm the athletic department and ISU Research Park are partnering with, Cushman & Wakefield. Cushman & Wakefield will consult the study for $125,000, and the results will play a big part in the second half of the stage for which they'll be paid $175,000 — both parts of which will be fully funded by the athletic department and the Ames Convention and Business Bureau.
One advantage Iowa State has with this proposed project, Pollard said, is the university's ownership of the land in question.
"We own all the land," Pollard said. "Most developments, the biggest challenge in the development is, you've got to acquire all the land, and as soon as people find out you're trying to acquire land, they start holding out.
We own all the land, we just have to figure out how to repurpose the land and use it more efficiently."