Thanks to picture-perfect weather and a picture-perfect setting, the Cyclone Loop was a popular cap to the third day of the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI). Ames hosted the hordes of state-crossing cyclists for an overnight stop Tuesday, following a 62-mile day that gave riders the option of taking a spin around the field inside Jack Trice Stadium. Here are a few comments overheard in the loop.
Variations on wow
Cyclists entered the stadium's field level through the tunnel in the northwest corner, the same spot where the football team emerges for games. There were lots of wide eyes and grins when bikers turned the corner at the end of the tunnel to catch their first glimpse inside the stadium. "Wow" was a common sentiment, in many forms:
"Oh. My. God. Wow!"
"Oh wow, that’s ... wow!"
"Wow! Wow wow wow wow!"
It says 1,000 words, after all
Many of the riders came down the tunnel holding up their phones, shooting video of the inspiring entrance. "The best photo op of the week," one said as he approached. The first thing most riders did after arriving was stop to get a selfie. Not everyone got the message, though: "Hey, we need to get a picture here," one rider shouted to her companions speeding ahead toward midfield. "Hey! Hey!!! Picture!!!"
Field level fun
The unpainted turf was cordoned off, but most riders never get a chance to be so close to Jack Trice's playing surface. That prompted some remarks about the field:
"I've never actually been here before. I'm shocked that it's actually grass."
"It's shorter than I thought it would be. Is it always that short?"
Of course, there are jokers in every crowd:
"Is this where they play tennis?"
"Do we get a scholarship for this?"
Cyclone jerseys were a widespread choice on Tuesday, and impromptu cheers frequently broke out, along with the occasional fight song singalong. But get a bunch of Iowans together, and there's bound to be some Cy-Hawk ribbing. One rider had the Iowa fight song cued up on a portable speaker, not nearly as polite as the U of I fan who said: "Sorry, but go Hawks! Sorry!" A cyclist joked to his companion wearing a Hawkeye jersey: "Your legs will probably burn when you hit the field." Another wondered how Friday's overnight stop could possibly compare: "This is a very cool idea. Iowa City's going to have to step it up."
Roads in the southwest part of campus dug up since March will be back in service by Aug. 10. Two projects, involving Bissell Road and Welch Road/Union Drive respectively, have a two-summer timeline due to their size. Facilities planning and management leaders seized the opportunity to marry several necessary upgrades on one timeline: underground utilities and road replacement. The impact of the former will be a storm sewer system that can keep up with higher water runoff volumes from developing that part of campus and more reliable air conditioning in west-side buildings. The street-level impact will be wider sidewalks and narrower roads that help keep pedestrians safer.
Work will resume in March 2019.
The contractor (Carter and Associates, Coralville) paved most of Bissell Road July 20 following four months and three phases of work that managed to stay on or ahead of schedule. Crews installed storm sewer lines and new chilled water pipes beneath Bissell between the Osborn Drive intersection and the south end of the under-construction Student Innovation Center. The two replace systems that were 78 years and 50 years old, respectively.
Senior construction manager Leroy Brown, facilities planning and management, said when it's completed, Bissell will remain closed to vehicle traffic for about a week to serve temporarily as a sidewalk. Crews will install 10-foot-wide sidewalks on either side of Bissell, except in the Student Innovation Center construction site.
Weather permitting, the contractor should finish and vacate the area by Aug. 10.
Welch Road/Union Drive
Two of three scheduled phases, encompassing Welch Road from Lincoln Way to Union Drive, and Union Drive west to just east of the Enrollment Services Center parking entrance, will be completed at the south end of the project zone this summer. The storm sewers beneath them also are being replaced. Brown said a scheduled third phase will be completed as part of the 2019 work.
Phase 1 hit a snag in April when ConStruct crews unearthed a box culvert beneath Welch Road that helps divert College Creek around the south bank of Lake LaVerne. (College Creek reemerges on the east side of the Memorial Union ramp.) A thick slab of concrete covering the culvert had to be removed because it sat too high for the height of the new road, revealing the culvert, supported by a decades-old set of weight-bearing wood tiers. Brown said engineers from the university's project consultant evaluated the culvert, determined it couldn't bear any weight and took several weeks to evaluate solutions.
The decision? With the wood tiers removed, 12 eight-inch steel pilings were driven 40 feet into the ground adjacent to the culvert and filled with concrete earlier this week. They'll support a reinforced concrete grade beam across the top of the culvert, over which the road can be poured.
Weather permitting, Brown said crews will pour the Welch Road and Union Drive road sections the week of Aug. 6. They'll complete the culvert project and new sidewalks on both sides of the roads the following week.
"The work of these contractors is really appreciated," Brown said. "No one can predict the weather in peak construction season. They understand our university priorities and work hard to meet those."
When all the work wraps up in August 2019, the road corridor from the Bissell/Osborn intersection south to the Lincoln Way/Welch intersection will look and function consistently. Road widths will narrow to a uniform 27 feet, and sidewalks will widen to 10 feet. Vehicles, buses and bicycles will share a single traffic lane (13.5 feet wide) in each direction.
Big west-side road projects will span two summers, Feb. 22, 2018
On the heels of improvements to the intramural fields east of the Maple Willow Larch (MWL) residence complex, recreation services proposes similar upgrades to its fields east of Jack Trice Stadium. The state Board of Regents' property and facilities committee will review a $10 million plan at the group's Aug. 1 meeting in Urbandale. The committee could send it on to the full board for final approval Sept. 13.
The plan reconfigures and renovates about 40 acres on the east side of University Boulevard and adds an irrigation system, lights and restrooms. Six softball fields, eight sand volleyball courts and about a dozen soccer/football fields would be distributed between north and south sections, separated by about 650 parking spots (grass and gravel) and a service building.
Recreation services director Mike Giles said it's all about meeting student demand for more activities.
"The lights and the irrigation system will enhance and expand our capacity at what is a primary location for us," he said. "Without lights, we have to stop outdoor activities at 6 or 7 p.m. This will let us schedule intramurals up to midnight" -- a typical scheduling plan among university recreation programs, he added -- as well as later into the fall and earlier in the spring.
Giles said the updates also should strengthen town-gown collaboration by making the facility more appealing to non-university summer users such as Special Olympics, Iowa Games and new clients, and help increase off-season revenue.
He said his goal is to first use the renovated fields for intramural leagues in fall 2020. Site work would begin next spring and crews would seed the grass in early fall 2019 for fall, spring and summer growing. Completing the MWL recreation fields this fall will help absorb some of the ongoing demand during construction on the southeast fields, he said.
Student fees will pay for the improvements. Giles said student fees won't be raised. Recreation services is a self-funded auxiliary unit receiving no appropriation or tuition dollars.
"We are responsible for operating, maintaining and upgrading all of our facilities, outdoor or indoor," he noted.
Budget, windows, Gerdin addition
The regents meeting will be based at the board office. Agenda documents are online, and audio of public portions of the meeting will be livestreamed on the board's website.
The board is expected to approve changes to its own policy manual (chapter 1.4) to include a public comment period at all regular meetings (excluding telephonic or special meetings). Board president Mike Richards began piloting the comment period in June 2017. This replaces a little-used practice that required members of the public to go to designated campus locations prior to meetings to video-record their comments for board members.
Board members will hear presentations on the regent institutions' budgets for the fiscal year that began July 1. Iowa State leaders also will seek final board approval to:
- Proceed with planning to convert the top three floors of the Memorial Union from hotel rooms to offices and collaborative spaces for existing student services, including the veterans center, student legal services, study abroad center, LGBTQIA+ student success, NCORE/ISCORE and international students and scholars. Estimated cost is $11 million, to be funded with student fees.
- Build a $28 million, 40,000-square-foot east addition to Gerdin Building containing instruction, office and collaborative spaces for the Ivy College of Business. University funds and private gifts will pay for the addition.
- Proceed with planning to construct education and outreach facilities, feed mill tower (replacing three outdated ones) and feed storage buildings at the Curtiss Farm southwest of Ames. Private gifts will cover the estimated $21.2 million price tag.
- Renovate Curtiss Hall third floor for administrative offices for staff in the colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Liberal Arts and Sciences, and English department faculty and graduate students. The $2.3 million cost would be funded by college funds and private gifts.
- Replace windows and window blinds in Birch, Welch, Roberts, Helser (summer 2019), Oak and Elm (summer 2020) residence halls -- a total of 2,244 windows -- for an estimated $12.7 million. Residence department funds will cover the cost.
- Eliminate two centers, the Analog and Mixed-Signal VLSI Design Center in the electrical and computer engineering department, and the Asteroid Deflection Research Center, which will become the Asteroid Defense Research Consortium and collaborate with the international community on this issue.
University Professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering Steve Freeman will continue to serve as faculty adviser to the president. His half-time, three-year appointment took effect July 1.
Freeman has served in the post since July 2013, when former President Steven Leath created a quarter-time position and later expanded it to 0.75 time. Ben Allen made it a half-time appointment during his interim presidency.
"I appreciate Steve's willingness to continue serving in this important role," said President Wendy Wintersteen. "He brings good perspective and a thoughtful, detailed approach to navigating complex issues."
Freeman's duties in the president's office include:
- Advise the president on faculty, staff and student grievances and appeals that reach the president's office
- Supervise the ombuds office
- Serve as a president's office representative on the university's athletics council, which he currently chairs
- Other duties as assigned
Students aren't the only ones who miss class. Due to conflicts both personal and professional, faculty occasionally can't make it to a scheduled session of a course they are teaching. An initiative the Student Loan Education Office launched two years ago, Don't Cancel That Class, makes it easy for instructors to fill an open period with a guest presentation.
It's a simple idea that financial literacy adviser Julia Gwebu picked up at a conference and replicated at Iowa State. It offers faculty -- and academic advisers who often teach departmental and college orientation courses -- a list of presentations with wide appeal offered by campus student service groups.
In addition to sessions on financial literacy from the Student Loan Education Office, the list includes presentations by the Academic Success Center, the Margaret Sloss Women's Center, Student Wellness and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences study abroad program.
Faculty fill out an online form to request a presentation. Two weeks of advance notice is recommended, as the initiative is designed for planned absences. In 2016-17, the first year it was available, about two dozen requests were fulfilled, Gwebu said. That grew to about 35 presentations during 2017-18, she said.
While the organizations who put on the programs often have their own procedures for scheduling presentations, the centralized list is helpful, Gwebu said. Some of the presentations work well for specific classes, and faculty have used the request form to line up programs on days they weren't absent.
"There are all these great resources, but it takes time for faculty to search out those opportunities," she said.
It also gives student services groups another shot at reaching students who may be too busy to attend their programs at other times, Gwebu said.
"Any opportunity we can get to get our material in front of them is, hopefully, a chance that they'll follow up and make an appointment with us to make a budget or meet with the Academic Success Center one-on-one," she said.
Gwebu is looking to expand the presentations, which are offered in summer, fall and spring sessions. Contact her at email@example.com or 294-0677 to discuss adding programs.