Higher education

University of Iowa art museum, Field House renovation, among $830 million for new projects

Regents to consider upgrades in June

A University of Iowa rendering of its proposed Museum of Art, looking west from Gibson Square Park and Madison Street. The university is asking for Board of Regents approval to proceed with the $50 million project.

(University of Iowa)
A University of Iowa rendering of its proposed Museum of Art, looking west from Gibson Square Park and Madison Street. The university is asking for Board of Regents approval to proceed with the $50 million project. (University of Iowa)
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Iowa’s public universities are expecting to initiate more than $830 million in new capital projects in the coming budget year — including a long-awaited replacement of the University of Iowa’s Museum of Art, destroyed in the 2008 flood, and upgrades to its iconic Field House.

Most of the money for the new projects will come from designated building funds, improvement dollars and revenue bonds of self-supporting enterprises and capital appropriations. Far fewer resources will come from the universities’ general education budgets, which saw big cuts in state support recently.

University of Iowa, UI Health Care and Iowa State University account for a majority of the likely 2018 projects that have a price tag less than the more than $971 million the regents planned for new capital projects in the current budget year but about $200 million more than the board anticipated in each of the budget years between 2013 and 2016.

In fact, the only years in recent memory the board reported more anticipated capital projects was in 2017 2012, and 2009 — just after the 2008 flood devastated the UI campus.

The $834.2 million in anticipated 2018 capital projects includes those that exceed $250,000 but have not yet received description and budget approval from the board. The total does not include projects that already received necessary approvals or are expected to be completed in 2018 or continued through the year — like the nearly $90 million upgrade to Kinnick Stadium’s north stands.

University of Iowa and ISU, according to regent documents made public Tuesday, each are planning more than $278 million in new projects for the year beginning July 1. University of Iowa Health Care is planning nearly $240 million in construction, renovation and upgrades, and University of Northern Iowa is slated for more than $37 million in campus maintenance and improvement projects.

The highest-profile projects planned for the upcoming year include a new $50 million UI Museum of Art and $10 million in renovations to the Field House — converting its 90-year-old pool into a new fitness center.

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University of Iowa administrators are asking regents at their meeting next week to proceed with planning the Field House conversion. The board in June also will consider approving schematic designs and budgets for the UI art museum “with the understanding that approval would constitute final board approval and authorization to proceed with construction.”

UI Museum of Art

Preliminary plans for a new 45,000-square-foot Museum of Art, made public Tuesday, have it located above the 500-year flood plain on a parcel of UI-owned land south of the UI Main Library but not connected to the library, as was considered when officials first identified the site as a possibility.

The proposal would consolidate and display the UI’s more than 12,400-piece art collection worth more than $500 million while also providing staff offices, conference rooms, classrooms and 45 parking stalls under the facility.

The project, which officials have said they’ll pay for with gifts and UI facility corporation bonds and hope to complete by 2019, is a long time coming after the original museum — constructed in 1969 — was destroyed in the 2008 flood.

Ever since, the museum’s artwork has been scattered — displayed at the Davenport-based Figge Art Museum and via traveling shows and exhibitions, including ones at the Getty in Los Angeles and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, Italy, that shattered attendance records with hundreds of thousands of visitors.

The university in 2014 entered into a partnership to replace the old museum with a 75,000-square-foot facility on leased private property near the intersection of Clinton and Burlington streets. The value of that project, including the lease and buyout proposal, was estimated at $107 million.

But shortly after UI President Bruce Harreld arrived on campus in fall 2015 he encouraged staff to seek other options — namely ones that involved already-owned UI land.

UI Field House

UI officials are not as far along in proposed upgrades to the Field House, which opened in 1927 with what was at the time the world’s largest competition pool, according to UI documents. It’s hosted numerous state, national and international competitions over the years, but UI officials in new regent documents report the Field House “is underutilized, costly to maintain and in need of a major overhaul.”

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The university in 2010 opened a new Campus Recreation and Wellness Center on the east side of the Iowa River, including a new state-of-the-art natatorium complete with a competition pool and diving well featuring spring and platform boards.

Converting the old Field House pool into a fitness center with new locker rooms “would support the increasing student demand for this type of recreational space,” according to regent documents.

“It would also re-energize and reactivate the Field House building while helping to resolve the overcrowding at the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center.”

The project, which officials are seeking permission to plan, also would enable the university to use existing recreational space as academic laboratories for health and human physiology, health and physical activity skills and sport and recreation management programs — some of the fastest-growing majors on campus, according to regent documents.

The project’s $10 million to $12 million budget would be paid for with investment income and recreational services gifts and earnings.

Other big-ticket items planned for initiation in 2018 include at the University of Iowa a new $30 million Tippie College of Business Facility and Entrepreneurial Center, funded by gifts and bonds; a new $10.8 million Finkbine Golf Clubhouse, funded by the athletics department; $30 million in renovations to the Bowen Science Building, funded by investment income, gifts, and bonds; a $10 million communication center renovation; and a $50 million second phase of its library modernization project.

At Iowa State, the costliest projects include a new $124 million Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory; a $30 million sports performance center; a $20 million Gerdin Business Building expansion; and $11 million in recreational services upgrades.

l Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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