Ames community votes no on Scheman expansion


Columnist Glawe believes that voting all incumbents out of office is a bad idea. Glawe suggests in his article that instead of wiping the board completely, voters should more specifically tailor their voting habits to the candidate and pay closer attention to what the candidates’ stances.

Makayla Tendall

Although the proposal for the new Ames convention center did not pass, Ames citizens had various reasons for voting the way they did.

4,950 Ames citizens filed into polling locations to cast their votes for the special election on the proposed bond referendum for a new convention center that would include a renovation to two upper floors of the Scheman Building and add 35,000 square feet to the north side of the building.

In order for the referendum to have passed, 60 percent of voters would have had to approve the project. 62.69 percent of voters voted no for the proposal, according to the Story County Auditor.

By 5:00 p.m., 330 Ames citizens and students voted on the issue at the Collegiate United Methodist Church on Lincoln Way. Jerri Hobson, a volunteer poll-watcher an Ames citizen since 1999, said another poll-watcher told her they had 600 people vote at their center.

Hobson said she saw a mix of both ISU students and Ames citizens. She said she thinks the large voter turn-out is because Ames citizens really care about this issue.

“It’s an issue that deals with finances and taxes. It’s a bit controversial,” Hobson said. “I suppose to a certain extent they think it’s a good thing. I remember a time when Ames got all of the concerts, and then Des Moines built Wells Fargo. It would help get more revenue into town.”

60 percent of Ames citizens needed to approve the initial $19 million bond referendum, funded by both Ames tax payers and Iowa State. The project as a whole would cost an estimated $38 million.

Supporters of the project said the additional space would be necessary to keep and regain both local and global organizations that come to Ames to use the convention center. Without the center, they said Ames would lose economic growth opportunities brought by visitors.

Those people opposed to the project said the estimated economic benefits that would accompany the new convention center would not outweigh the costs and not truly benefit the community who does not use the convention center as much as Iowa State, who currently operates the convention centers.

While some who voted against the project questioned the proposed effectiveness and cost of the project, Stephen Willson, an Ames resident since 1973, said he voted no because of the design concepts.

“I think the Iowa State Center would be very ugly to have everything come right up to Lincoln Way,” Willson said. “I think the idea of a convention center was good, but I don’t think putting it right on the floodplains is a good idea. It might be better to put it near a hotel for example.”

Mariah Griffith, sophomore in journalism, said growing up in Ames influenced her decision to vote in favor of the project.

“I’ve had more experiences in the Scheman building than I think many others. We all went through the freshman initiation thing, but when you’ve been to meetings, social events, weddings — you’ve done prom there — you understand more of the capacity of the building,” Griffith said. “If you’ve gone out to the other places around here, that have those convention center, you see what an asset that is to that community.”

Randy Novak, an Ames resident for 13 years, said he voted to approve the referendum so that the city of Ames will continue to expand physically and economically.

“The city needs to be growing more,” Novak said. “There’s a boatload of people in Ames that are against everything. People were against the mall; they were against the expansion of other things. At a certain point it’s a city that’s growing. Let’s help it grow instead of put roadblocks in.”

Novak said the additional property taxes used to pay for the city’s half of the project is “the cost of living in a good community.”

Novak is also a member of the Fire Service Training Bureau that would benefit from added space in the Scheman Building because the bureau holds their annual state fire school program there.

Julie Weeks, director for the Ames Convention and Visitors Bureau that helped facilitate the project, said they have no additional plan for the project at this time.

“This was a one-time opportunity with Iowa State. The Board [of Regents] worked on this plan for five years, and it was time for us to make a decision as the [bureau] on how to market Ames,” Weeks said. “Without this facility we obviously have to change our marketing strategy.”

The citizens of Ames will now not be responsible for paying the other half of the convention center costs. It is unsure how the Board of Regents will proceed the convention center renovations.