Education

University Club could stay open longer as UI gathers proposals

New members still being accepted at 58-year-old club

The Pentacrest on the campus of the University of Iowa including the Old Capitol Building (center), Macbride Hall (top left), Jessup Hall (bottom left), Schaeffer Hall (top right), and MacLean Hall (bottom right) in an aerial photograph in Iowa City on Wednesday, May 14, 2014. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette-KCRG TV9)
The Pentacrest on the campus of the University of Iowa including the Old Capitol Building (center), Macbride Hall (top left), Jessup Hall (bottom left), Schaeffer Hall (top right), and MacLean Hall (bottom right) in an aerial photograph in Iowa City on Wednesday, May 14, 2014. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette-KCRG TV9)

The University of Iowa last summer announced plans to shutter the University Club, the 58-year-old club and events center it owns at 1360 Melrose Ave., next to the Finkbine Golf Course in Iowa City.

The plan was to shutter the club Sept. 4 of this year and replace it with a hotel.

In October, the UI asked for ideas from developers interested in collaborating on such a project.

UI officials note the club building is outdated and that operating a private social club is outside the mission of the university, which bought the 33,000-square-foot club in 2008 — 48 years after it opened in 1960 as the University Athletic Club.

WHAT’S HAPPENED SINCE:

A lot has changed since that original plan was unveiled.

UI administrators are now saying the club could stay open through at least the end of the year while administrators see what developers propose for the land around the club.

The club’s website now tells its 340 or so members, in a revised message, “Until closure, we will continue to honor your membership and events and continue to provide great programs, special dinners, holiday functions, and private restaurant service.”

The club also is accepting new members, according to the online message, which dropped a line from the previous version noting, “We look forward to this final year with you.”

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

“The new function of the University Club, its business model, and timeline for keeping it open are yet to be determined,” UI spokeswoman Anne Bassett said.

“Over the next few weeks,” she said, “University of Iowa and club officials will review potential proposals for the space, which include keeping it open through at least the end of the year as redevelopment of the area progresses.”

The UI in May advertised for development teams to help re-imagine 44-plus acres of UI-owned land extending from Melrose Avenue to the Iowa Northern Railway.

In the request, the UI highlighted plans to build a new $10 million clubhouse serving its “championship level” Finkbine Golf Course and painted a picture of a potential boutique hotel, micro conference center, private member club — even retail shops and residential housing nearby.

It also noted, “It is the university’s expectation that the current University Club facility will be razed as part of any new development.”

The deadline for responses is Aug. 1.

But officials are keeping an open mind.

“The university is receptive to the creation of a new private social club facility within the overall development area,” according to the proposal. “Or the integration of a private social club within the new Finkbine clubhouse, or the expansion of the new Finkbine clubhouse to accommodate the necessary indoor and outdoor facilitates that would be part of the private club.”

The proposal offers university help to “transition the existing club membership to any proposed new club.”

In addition to the university’s evolved vision for the club site, UI President Bruce Harreld in April imposed a campuswide five-month moratorium on new construction in response to a second straight midyear Legislative de-appropriation, taking back millions of committed funds.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Thank you for signing up for our e-newsletter!

You should start receiving the e-newsletters within a couple days.

That moratorium, expected to stretch into September, affects the Finkbine project — also potentially negating the need to immediately raze the University Club.

In recent years and with the looming changes, the club has seen membership decline — dropping from nearly 600 in 2013 to 440 in 2017 to now 340.

The club has cut its six full-time staffers to three, who — upon closure and satisfactory job performance — will transition to similar jobs with University House and Dining, UI officials have said.

Budget numbers for the past two years show expenses increased slightly in the 2017 budget year, from $1.18 million in 2016 to 1.19 million — meaning the club lost money last year, with revenue reported at $1.15 million. In 2016, revenue topped expenses at $1.19 million.

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

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

CONTINUE READING

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.