IOWA CITY — Having asked in September for proposals from contractors interested in building a new $10 million Finkbine Golf Clubhouse capable of supporting championship-level tournaments, the University of Iowa is asking again — after every bid came in over budget.
UI last week issued a new ask of prospective contractors but this time for a scaled-down replacement of the 53-year-old, 5,400-square-foot club house abutting the historic Finkbine Golf Course. Instead of spending $7.5 million to build a new 23,000-square-foot facility — which would have more than quadrupled the size of the old one in hopes of attracting regional and national tournaments and the revenue that comes with it — the UI is looking to spend $7 million on a 19,000-square-foot facility.
“The university has slightly reduced the scope and size of the facility in order to deliver the project within budget, while also designing and constructing a new facility that will fully meet the needs of the athletic department,” UI spokeswoman Anne Bassett told The Gazette.
Although she confirmed the university has reworked design configurations and finishes, Bassett didn’t disclose specific details. The original project, as proposed to the Board of Regents in August 2017, included larger and more equitable men’s and women’s locker rooms, a retail pro shop and full kitchen, along with dining, banquet event and administrative space.
The project, originally slated for completion by spring 2019, also aimed to accommodate a golf cart fleet on the lower level. But when bids came in mid-September for the total $10 million project — including $7.5 million in construction costs, plus expenses for things like planning and design, furniture and equipment, and contingency — all four respondents said they’d need to spend more.
The lowest bid was $7.9 million, not including extra expenses for things like an outdoor dining roof structure and patio enclosure. The highest bid topped $8.4 million with the extra expenses, according to bid documents provided to The Gazette.
Reacting to the contractor response, Bassett said, the university reduced the project scope “to fit a construction estimate of $7 million to ensure the project may be awarded and moved forward within the approved budget amount.”
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The project is being covered entirely by a donation to the athletics department — meaning no state appropriations are going toward the project.
Even so, the new clubhouse saw its first delay in April, when UI President Bruce Harreld issued a moratorium on new construction across campus in light of midyear state funding cuts that stripped $5.5 million from the university’s 2018 general fund budget just months before the end of the fiscal year.
When that building ban lifted, the Finkbine project was the first to go out for bid.
But the speed bumps have UI now eyeing an opening in early spring 2020 — a year later than originally planned — pushing back anticipated revenue and stalling other prospective benefits and needs.
“It would provide an exceptional venue for UI relationship building including recruiting activities, donor interactions and alumni activities,” according to the university’s project pitch to the Board of Regents. “Safety is a major concern for golf in the Midwest due to weather-related conditions like severe storms, lightning and tornadoes. The new facility would provide proper shelter and safety for daily play customers and tournament participants.”
A second round of bids on the revised project are due Dec. 13.
Alongside its Finkbine project, the university is razing the adjacent 58-year-old University Club in hopes of redeveloping 44 acres of nearby land stretching from Melrose Avenue to the Iowa Northern Railway.
That project also has endured revision as UI officials last year proposed a more modest idea of replacing the University Club with a hotel. They issued a request for proposals on the project but never followed through with an award — swapping out the idea in pursuit of the larger 44-acre redevelopment.
In May, the university issued a call for development teams to help re-imagine the area — offering suggestions that could complement the “championship level” golf course, including a boutique hotel, micro conference center, private member club, and even retail shops or residential housing.
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The window for project pitches closed in August, and the university received two responses, according to Bassett.
“The university is reviewing the proposals submitted through the (request for quotation) and is considering next steps,” she said.
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