Convention space proposal is defeated

Iowa State leaders expressed disappointment Wednesday with Ames voters' rejection of a $19 million bond referendum that would have paid for half of a proposed renovation and convention space addition to the Scheman Building at the Iowa State Center.

By nearly a 2-to-1 margin – 63 percent to 37 percent – voters defeated a proposal to raise property taxes to pay for half of the proposed $39 million project. The measure needed 60 percent approval to pass. Nearly 12 percent (4,950) of registered voters cast a ballot.

"Tuesday's vote is extremely disappointing as we look at the significant multiuse space needs of the community and the university," said President Steven Leath. "We believe a strong case was made for the new convention center with a cost-sharing partnership between the city and Iowa State.

"This vote means we'll be unable to meet the needs of some groups that want to come to Ames," he added.

Senior vice president for business and finance Warren Madden also noted that the vote doesn't change the space needs, and said the university will continue to work with the city and the Ames Convention and Visitors Bureau to investigate other options for solving the need for more convention and meeting space in Ames.

"Ames voters made it clear that this proposal was not acceptable," he said.

In a preliminary estimate, about $6.5 million of the proposed project was intended to upgrade existing space in Scheman. Madden said the 40-year-old building still needs to be renovated to serve meeting and conference attendees. That may have to occur room by room, as funds are identified, he said.

"The funding reality is that this project would compete with our other campus needs, many of which are driven by student enrollment and student needs," he said. "Those [student] projects would be the priority, as they should be."

He said there are no immediate plans for what happens next.