$43 million Carver renovations underway


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Perhaps it’s fitting that legendary Iowa basketball head coach Lute Olson was in town this past weekend to commemorate the 1980 Final Four team. Renovations on Carver-Hawkeye Arena — also known as “The House That Lute Built” — began this week, marking the facility’s first major face-lift since it opened 26 years ago.

The $43 million project, due to be completed in the summer of 2011, will use no tax dollars; it received final approval from the state Board of Regents last week.

“It’s a difficult time for our state and for the country,” Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta said on Wednesday, acknowledging the $24.7 million UI President Sally Mason was forced to cut from the university’s budget. “On the flip side of that, because [the project] is not using tax dollars, the positive side is … the stimulus of putting $43 million … back into the economy in tough times.”

The new arena — which houses the offices of approximately 20 of the 24 sports at the UI, Barta said — will feature a separate multipurpose practice facility, updated offices, a brand-new wrestling area, and a drastically expanded weight room.

The current weight room is only 1,800 square feet. The new one will be around 11,000 square feet, allowing numerous teams to use the facility at the same time.

“I’m excited for it,” said sophomore men’s basketball guard Matt Gatens, who will be a senior when the project is completed. “It’s going to be a great addition to this facility. … I’ve been hearing about it for so long. To be able to get a taste of it will be awesome.”

Barta said three things were critical to the project’s approval from the regents: The fundraising had to be far enough along that “we were confident we were going to be able to raise the money to pay the bills;” the construction bids had to be at, or below, the budgeted amount; and the final cost of the bonds had to be at, or below, the budgeted amount.

On Wednesday, Barta said fundraising has been going “extremely well,” with more than $15 million raised for the project at this point. In total, Barta is relying on donations to contribute $20 million to the project. The athletics department is in “dozens of conversations of people who are interested” in contributing, he said.

The remaining $23 million will come from future ticket sales, he said.

The athletics department borrowed slightly more than that $23 million, but Barta said all of the project’s $43 million price tag will eventually be covered by donations and ticket sales.

The original cost of the renovations was around $47 million, but because the “construction environment was in our favor,” Barta said, the total cost dipped to around $43 million.

“I have a view out my window watching the trees come down,” men’s basketball head coach Todd Lickliter said on Wednesday. “It’s something that we all admit [is] past due. … If we want to compete on the court, we’ve got to have all available resources to do that.”

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