University of Iowa to lift construction moratorium

Finkbine Golf Clubhouse first project going forward

The Pentacrest on the campus of the University of Iowa including the Old Capitol Building (center), Macbride Hall (top l
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)

IOWA CITY — With a request for bids to build a new $10 million Finkbine Golf Clubhouse, the University of Iowa is ending its five-month moratorium on campus construction that came in response to persistent state funding cuts.

UI President Bruce Harreld announced the halt on new construction April 12, telling the Board of Regents at the time he would re-evaluate before Sept. 12 whether to lift it.

Earlier this week, the university posted on its facilities website the new Finkbine project, with a bid date of Sept. 12. Its Office of Strategic Communication announced Thursday the moratorium will end at that time.

“Many communities are affected as the university addresses the generational disinvestment from the state, and we appreciate your standing with us as we make difficult choices to maintain excellence for our students,” Rod Lehnertz, senior vice president for finance and operations, said in a statement.

The construction halt meant to help make up for a late-year state funding cut of $5.49 million from the general education budget in the fiscal year that ended June 30. It was the second straight year the state took back funding it already approved, adding to a total decrease in regents general education support of more than $40 million since fiscal 2017.

Other measures the UI has imposed to absorb the losses include increasing tuition, freezing faculty pay, dropping scholarship programs and closing seven centers with missions “not directly tied to student instruction.”

When he announced the moratorium, Harreld noted the university could move ahead with some projects on a limited basis depending on public safety or building code concerns, emergencies or time sensitivity.

A review of the UI facilities website shows it awarded six bids during the moratorium estimated to cost a total $3.5 million. They included a $1.3 million inpatient psychiatry expansion and renovation in the UI Health Care campus. They also included work to address code compliance at the Medical Education Research Facility and renovations at Van Allen Hall tied to NASA grants, “which, if delayed, would have posed a breach of contract,” according to UI officials.

Officials said they’ve decided to resume delayed construction projects “after evaluating levels of state support and other sources of funding such as tuition, grants, and private donations.” Further delaying deferred maintenance could only cost more, according to UI leadership.

“Ongoing efforts to address continuous state cuts while maintaining student and research excellence have impacted the care and modernization of more than 250 university buildings,” according to the UI Office of Strategic Communications. “The average age of campus buildings is 45 years, and age-related repairs and upkeep will be necessary in the coming years to maintain safety and use.”

The Finkbine project aims to replace a 52-year-old facility that UI Business Manager David Kieft has said is outdated, inaccessible and “does not provide the ability to host significant tournaments.”

A new two-tiered, 23,000-square-foot facility will more than quadruple the size of the current clubhouse and bring it on par with peer venues, establishing the UI as a championship-level site able to host NCAA golf events, according to regents documents.

Construction, before the delay, was supposed to start last spring and wrap up by spring 2019. The UI has not announced a new timeline.

When the regents approved construction of the facility, it was expected to cost about $10 million, paid for by athletics department gifts. The UI bid site this week lists estimates construction costs at $7.5 million, which excludes planning and design, furniture and equipment and contingency funds.

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