Letter to the editor: Scheman expansion will bring rising costs

The Ames Convention and Visitors Bureau and Iowa State are trying to persuade Ames taxpayers to pay $19,000,000, half the cost of expanding Scheman, by agreeing to a 20-year 5 percent city tax increase. Those of you who live off-campus can expect a rent increase soon. Because the entire convention industry is vastly overbuilt, these centers lose money, lots of money. If Scheman is expanded annual losses are estimated to be $380,000. That annual loss too will also be paid by Ames taxpayers, who will see some of the hotel/motel tax the city collects used to cover the loss.

The proponents don’t discuss costs. Instead we hear about benefits, such as weddings and more student meetings. But you can already hold your wedding or student meeting in Scheman, if you are willing to pay. Do you really need 35,000 square feet for either? Architects tend to be very negative about the proposal, saying it’s unattractive at best, and will make parking even worse. Phase two of the expansion included tearing down Fisher Theater, but that idea has been abandoned for now, because it was so unpopular.

The proponents compare Cy-Ride and Scheman. But unlike Cy-Ride, Scheman charges for its services as you use them. And unlike Cy-Ride, the convention center won’t generate new hotel/motel tax if you use it very much. Hotel/motel taxes are paid only by overnight visitors to Ames. The more Scheman is used by you and me, the less hotel/motel tax there is to help offset the losses. And the more money it loses, the more rent will go up. Please think about the consequences when you vote.

By the way, Iowa State’s cost for the expansion is about $20,000,000. I have heard both GSB candidates’ slates; their ideas cost a lot less and would be far more effective at improving your ISU experience.