Iowa State might get leadership retreat


Photo: Megan Wolff/Iowa State Daily

Iowa State Purchases 17 Acres

Dan Mackenzie

Students at Iowa State may soon have access to nearly 20 acres of recreational land all within walking distance of the campus.

The university is in the midst of purchasing 17.2 acres of land for $120,000 on the north side of campus in between the Applied Science Center and the Veenker Memorial Golf Course. The university was granted permission by the Iowa Board of Regents in July to proceed with the deal. The land is currently owned by the YMCA of Greater Des Moines, which agreed to sell the land for its appraised value.

The $120,000 for the purchase comes directly out of funds already available to the university. Warren Madden, senior vice president of Business and Finance, said the money comes out of facilities fees the university charges for groups to use spaces on campus.

Vernon Delpesce, CEO of the YMCA of Greater Des Moines, said the university approached them for the purchase about a year ago.

“Basically, we really didn’t use

the land that much any more,” Delpesce said.

The YMCA is focused more on its facility near Boone, but he said: “The university has some plans for the area that are a good use of that property.”

Delpesce said that over the past five or six years, maintenance to keep up the property has become financially undesirable. There have been issues with vandalism of a cabin located on the property, as well as problems such as pipes freezing over in the winter. That is where the university saw an opportunity.

“I have made it clear to YMCA over the years that if they had any interest in selling that property, the university would be interested because it’s contiguous to what we are doing there. …We really thought it would be helpful to connect the university properties that were up there,” Madden said, referring to the golf course and the applied science complex.

“It’s perfect,” said Tom Hill, senior vice president of Student Affairs. “You can call it luck, but I couldn’t believe it. The price —  $120,000 for 17 acres is amazing. It won’t come around again.” 

Hill envisions a multi-use property for the university. He said foremost it would be a recreational area with hiking trails that are already there. Hill said what he would like to see is a leadership retreat area, complete with an updated lodge for students to use for meetings and teambuilding events.

“Facilities that are accessible and primarily dedicated to students,” Hill said. “Also, a state of the art facility where they can go and do the kind of activities you need to develop leadership opportunities.”

Hill said the facility will be something that is valuable to all students, not just a select few.

“We’ve got a lot of student organizations that don’t have the resources to do that kind of thing,” Hill said. “Consequently, they’re missing out on a valuable leadership development experience. For me that’s the biggest advantage of [a possible retreat], that we’re kind of leveling this playing field with regards to leadership skills, we broadening it out to a lot more students”

The cost for building up such a facility, Hill estimated, would probably be in the range of $14 million to 15 million. The project is still in its infancy with regards to development and fundraising, though Hill is optimistic that much of that money will come from donors. But like the new Lied Rec Facility, fees may have to be assessed to complete the project

“I would like not to go that route if I could. We’ve recently had one of the largest fee increases in the history of the institution. It was for a good purpose, but I would like to avoid going back to that. … I’m optimistic that we’ll find some donors, people who have the ability to make this happen who see the benefit and the need … of leadership training and development.”

The purchase is not quite official yet. Although the university, the Board of Regents and the YMCA board have agreed to the purchase, the paperwork is still being filed with the various legal departments.

Madden said the paperwork will clear relatively soon as it mostly procedural documents. Once that is complete the university will begin the planning process to narrow down exact uses for the property.