Ames convention center miscalculated estimates


A 3-D rendering of where the proposed convention center would look like in the proposed building area.

Makayla Tendall

The Ames Convention and Visitors Bureau continues to use inaccurate economic benefit estimates of a proposed convention center in Ames, said Dave Swenson, associate scientist of economics-agriculture and life sciences, despite his recommendations they use accurate numbers.

The bureau released updated estimates Feb. 7, but Swenson said the estimates were still miscalculated. 

The proposed convention center and reconstruction of the Scheman Building would benefit the hotel, restaurant and business industries in the Ames area.

The bureau is asking voters to approve a $19 million bond referendum to fund some of the construction costs. This bond would be paid in property taxes that would cost the average homeowner an estimate of $60 a year for 20 years. Sixty percent of voters would need to approve the construction of the convention center which would cost an estimate of $38.8 million.

In 2012, Swenson and Sue Ravenscroft, professor of accounting, were asked by Ames Convention and Visitors Bureau board members and city councilman Matthew Goodman to review estimates made by the consulting firm Conventions, Sports & Leisure.

After reading the consultant report, both Swenson and Ravenscroft said that they wondered if estimates done by the Iowa State Center internal estimate matched with the consultant’s report.

The consulting firm estimates showed that there would only be 48 added jobs instead of the 218 the Iowa State Center estimated.The Iowa State Center also estimated that there would be a $14.4 million boost in the Ames economy instead of the $3.2 million figure on the consultant’s estimate.

Swenson then used the consultant’s estimates to create a table of multipliers that would be used to show economic benefits he believed would be more accurate.

Ravenscroft said the new estimates seemed to be “dismal” compared to the estimates the bureau was showing and that the center would not have enough of an economic benefit to justify the cost.

“I thought they were going to give up. I thought they really were through,” Ravenscroft said. “I was kind of shocked when I heard vague rumors that we were going to be voting on it again. I started looking around thinking ‘what numbers are they coming up with?’”

Ravenscroft alerted Swenson to the fact that the bureau was still using what they believed were inaccurate estimates to educate the public on the convention center proposal.

Swenson and Ravenscroft met with city councilman Matthew Goodman and Ames Convention and Visitors Bureau board member Mark North to address what he felt were the miscalculated estimates.

The bureau said they would not release how they calculated their internal estimates but would release the basic numbers.

Swenson and Ravenscroft said they left the meeting Feb. 7 under an agreement with the bureau that they would show both high and low estimates of the potential impacts of the convention center.

“I recommended that they show the low estimates along with the high estimates,” Swenson said, referring to both estimates done by the consulting firm and the presumed high estimates done by the Ames Convention and Visitors Bureau and Iowa State Center.

“As of [Feb. 7], they still weren’t showing the low estimates,” Swenson said.