AMES — When Iowa State President Wendy Wintersteen was named ISU’s 16th president in 2017, she asked the university’s top administrators for their big ideas.
Iowa State Athletics Director Jamie Pollard said his vision was to develop a multiuse, cultural and entertainment district between Jack Trice Stadium and Hilton Coliseum.
On Tuesday, he shared the first steps in making that vision a reality, saying he took inspiration from the Power & Light District in Kansas City, the Titletown complex in Green Bay, Wis., and Wrigleyville in Chicago.
He said he’s seen how Iowa State fans take over the Kansas City district every March during basketball games and how they fill the streets of Memphis and San Antonio during bowl games. He wants that to become a near weekly occurrence in Ames.
“The process we are now embarking on is getting kicked off Friday,” he said, with the arrival on campus of representatives from Cushman & Wakefield, commercial real estate developers based in Chicago with offices in West Des Moines.
They will be in Ames for three to four months doing a $300,000 market feasibility study, he said.
“They’ll come in and look at the footprint, the Ames market,” he said. “What are the revenue drivers, and what does the financial model look like? We have reason to believe that they won’t come back and say, ‘There’s nothing there,’ ” Pollard said.
“We hope the number is as large as we need it to be. Once we know what the number looks like, we can move to phase two, which is starting to figure out what we do with that number.”
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The ISU Athletics Department won’t build or fund any of the buildings, a job that will go to developers.
“As far as funding, we’re creating a vision and creating a business model that allows a developer to come in and take the risk with our direction,” Pollard said. “So that it becomes very Iowa State-centric, very Ames-centric — yet we don’t put ourselves at risk by building it.
“This project is to be additive, not dilutive. We are not looking to take away from other businesses that are in Ames. What we’re looking to do is grow.”
The thing that puts Iowa State ahead as far as development is that it already owns the land to build the multiuse district.
Wintersteen gave the Athletics Department control over the Iowa State Center — Stephens Auditorium, Fisher Theatre and the Scheman Building — and the department already controls Hilton Coliseum and Jack Trice Stadium.
The department will partner on the project with the ISU Research Park and its president, Rick Sanders.
“It’s a huge responsibility, but both Rick and I welcome the challenge,” Pollard said. “It’s too late to change our minds now.”
The plan will explore relocating commuter and football game day parking to a new paved parking area east of the stadium, with a pedestrian bridge over University Avenue connecting it to the stadium. Pollard said the space between Hilton and Jack Trice could potentially host a hotel and convention center at some point.
Another 3,600 paved parking spots could result, Pollard said.
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“Every time you talk about this space, the first thing Cyclone fans do is, ‘What about my parking?’ That’s why a big part of this is the bridge and the parking. I’m here to assure you that we’re not going to impact tailgating, and we’re not going to diminish that part of it.”
The second phase of the project will take four to six months and cost $175,000, funded by the Athletics Department and the Ames Convention & Visitors Bureau, given the city’s interest in hotel and convention space.
“We’re parking cars, on our oceanfront land,” Pollard said. “What can we do on that beachfront property to produce additional revenue? What can we do to create revenue to create a large-scale convention space and a hotel for use by the university, but also by the community?”
The idea doesn’t come without risk, Pollard added.
“You put something big out there, and a lot of people don’t talk about their vision because they’re afraid they won’t fulfill their vision,” he said.
“This is not your father’s athletics department,” Pollard said. “Our vision is to not to compete with who we’ve competed with in the past. This vision is a journey to be the absolute best athletics program, football program, basketball program, wrestling program in the nation. To do that, we have to act and behave like the programs we’re aspiring to compete with.”