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UI takes possession of athletics club

BY TESSA MCLEAN | FEBRUARY 20, 2009 7:34 AM

Despite budget cuts across the UI, the campus continues to expand.

In mid-December, the UI Facilities Corp. took ownership of the University Athletics Club, a privately owned facility at 1360 Melrose Ave., near Finkbine Golf Course, for $6.5 million.

And in September, the state Board of Regents approved $6.7 million in UI property acquisitions, including converting what was formally the Campus 3 cinema in the Old Capitol Town Center into office space.

But this may not be the first time UI officials bought space that could have been available to them earlier.

UI spokesman Steve Parrott said he remembers an offer from the athletics club before, though he does not remember when the offer was made or for how much.

And when the UI took over the former Younkers space in the Old Capitol mall in 2005, school officials told regents they hoped to eventually acquire the second floor of the mall. Three years later, they bought the Campus 3 space on the upper floor.

The athletics club was not officially on the market then, though after last summer’s flooding, UI officials approached the club’s owners about using the space for school events. But an opportunity arose to permanently acquire a valuable piece of land adjacent to the university.

UI Business Manager George Hollins said the use of the club for events previously scheduled in the IMU came out of a brainstorming session that turned into an important business decision.
“They were interested in a more permanent change,” Hollins said. “It is difficult to find land of that size that is so close to the university.”

The 33,306 square-foot club sits on 5.3 acres of land adjacent to Finkbine.

The current city-assessed value of the building is $2,380,980 — which includes $750,000 in assets. Beginning in August, the university leased the club for $50,000 a month. In December, the ownership was turned over to the UI Facilities Corp., an arm of the UI Foundation, to which the UI will continue to pay a lease-purchase agreement.

Hollins said he expects the university will gain full ownership in 20 years.

The Davenport-based owners, who could not be reached, had been in contact with other interested parties as well, he said.

At a Feb. 3 meeting, Regent Robert Downer said the club would be valuable to private buyers, as it is the only commercially zoned property in University Heights.

Casey Cook, founder of Iowa City-based Cook Appraisals LLC, said the property is difficult to assess, but he thinks that the university made a good decision purchasing it.

“[Officials] needed to solve problems and couldn’t necessarily wait until a property came on the market at a reasonable price,” Cook said. “The university can use it much more efficiently than it is being used now.”

The value of the piece of land in proximity to other university buildings made it more valuable than the city-assessed price, he said.

The University Athletics Club opened in September 1959. The club will continue to serve its members through August. Though the facility is primarily used for banquets, its recreation facilities include an outdoor swimming pool, three tennis courts, and a basketball court.

At the Old Capitol mall, UI President Sally Mason put the plan to renovate the cinema space on hold at the regents’ meeting earlier this month.

The UI Facilities Corp. purchased the space formerly occupied by Younkers in the Old Capitol mall for $11.25 million in June 2005. The entire property was auctioned for just $12 million in 2003.
The University Capitol Centre — the UI’s space in the mall — houses the Office for Study Abroad, various international-program offices, Information Technology Services, and the flood-displaced University Bookstore.

In September, the UI was paying $13,116 a month to rent space for the University Bookstore, University Box Office, and other university offices displaced by the flood.

Before the UI purchased the space, the athletics club and the Iowa City Elks Lodge were the only private clubs in Iowa City.

Kevin Carr, the Elks general manager, has not seen an increase in membership, though he attributed that to the winter season.

“We are optimistic and certainly hope to see an increase in membership,” Carr said.

UI officials have not yet decide on an exact plan for the future of the athletics club.

“Everything is still in progress,” said David Grady, UI associate vice president for University Life Centers. “The initial need was to provide additional space for the university to respond to buildings affected by the flood.”

Grady said the club’s kitchen has been very helpful in space issues with IMU catering.

While the IMU is now hosting events such as music recitals, the club is hosting receptions and meetings that can no longer be accommodated at the IMU.

“What we’re working on now is a long-term plan,” Parrott said.


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