Council approves alcohol sales at Ames City Auditorium


Cleo Westin

City council meetings can be viewed on the AmesTelevision YouTube channel.

The Ames City Council unanimously approved a measure which would allow the city to hire a vendor to sell beer and wine for events at the Ames City Auditorium that city staff deem appropriate.

Ames Director of Parks and Recreation Keith Abraham said they are always looking for new ways to increase programming and reduce tax subsidies.

“We’re very customer driven, it’s one of our city values and we listen to our customers,” Abraham said. “One of the things that we’ve been hearing at the Ames City Auditorium is ‘Why don’t you sell alcohol? We can get it at Stephens Auditorium [and] we can get it at other places when we go see a show.’”

Abraham said the city is losing access to the Hope Church in the next three to five years and they are looking for ways to have other activities take place at the Ames City Auditorium.

“There are promoters out there that bring in bigger name acts,” Abraham said. “One of the things that we hear from them as well is ‘You don’t allow alcohol, […] when we bring acts in people generally want to have maybe a beer or a glass of wine.’”

Abraham said the city would sell alcohol at most events except those aimed at children, possibly religious related events and when Iowa State University rents the auditorium.

“If there was a Story Theater [event] that is basically for children audiences, children actors and so on, we would not sell alcohol at an event like that,” Abraham said.

The council also had to decide on whether to hire a vendor or have city staff sell the alcohol. Abraham said the Parks and Recreation Commission voted in favor of contracting with a vendor.

“The opportunity for bringing in more net revenue is greater in [having city staff sell alcohol] but again the risk is greater in this option as well,” Abraham said.

Abraham also said finding extra city staff to sell alcohol would be difficult.

Ames City Attorney Mark Lambert said it is always possible for a plaintiff to sue the city over loss of life relating to serving someone who is intoxicated with more alcohol but that “most of the time” the city would be dismissed out of the lawsuit.

Ames Economic Development Commission

President and CEO of the Ames Chamber of Commerce Dan Culhane presented the annual Ames Economic Development Commission report.

“There’s never been a better time, than right now, to be in Ames, Iowa,” Culhane said. “I’ve said that for a number of years but I still firmly, firmly believe that.”

Culhane said See Yourself in Ames Summer Intern Program starts this week and they have over 100 interns signed up.

“We think that’s a great way to introduce to young people that if you want to stay we can probably find you a meaningful employment opportunity,” Culhane said. “What we want to do is introduce all the cool that’s here and so that we at least give them the chance to stay if they want to stay.”

Ward 2 Rep. Tim Gartin said he has never been more convinced while serving as a councilmember on the importance of economic development.

“We have to expand our tax base and so the things that we do in our budget are going to be driven by our capacity,” Gartin said.

Sands-McDorman Property

According to city documents, city staff have been working with the owners of the 50-acre Sands-McDorman property, located at 5658 Ontario St., to purchase it for the purpose of developing a community park.

“We’re looking to close on this property in July,” Abraham said. “We already have the [Resource Enhancement and Protection] grant for $200,000 and it looks like we will also get a land and water conservation fund grant for $175,000 that will go toward the purchase of this property.”

On Tuesday, the council had to decide the fate of the five existing buildings on the property. Currently, there is a house, detached garage, milk house, large barn and corn crib.

Abraham said that barn wood is highly sought after and they could sell pieces of the large barn and corn crib.

Ward 1 Rep. Gloria Betcher said she had concerns over demolishing buildings and putting the materials in a landfill especially after the council’s recent trash hauling workshop.

“I know [Abraham] said we’re going to recycle but do we need to demolish [the milkhouse] and the garage and the house,” Betcher said. “Might there be someone interested in purchasing the house and moving it given the cost of building new houses these days.”

At-large Rep. Bronwyn Beatty-Hansen said she “really likes” the milk house.

“That milkhouse is a cool looking building and I feel really bad demolishing – of all of them – that one,” Beatty-Hansen said.

Betcher asked Abraham if the milk house was brick or a tile material that looks like brick because of the ability to rehabilitate the building but he was unsure.

“There’s a tile that was used extensively in construction, you might think of it almost as sewer tile, it’s a rather rigid material, it’s hollow and it was pretty common in the 1920s in this area,” Betcher said. “It also happens to be a lot less durable than brick.”

Betcher motioned that once the property was bought they would solicit buyers for the barn and corn crib wood, solicit buyers for the house under the condition that if it went unsold it would be demolished and to have city staff explore the potential to use the garage and milkhouse for storage. The council unanimously approved the motion.

Gartin said he does not think it hurts to have city staff investigate costs to rehabilitate the buildings but that the council should be philosophically prepared to make good decisions if the numbers are “crazy.”

“This is something everyone is facing all over the Midwest,” Gartin said. “We have older out buildings that are going to be super expensive to rehab.”

Abraham said the city would not have a vision for the park until after meetings with the community about it occurred.

Additional Measures

Mayor John Haila proclaimed May 21–27 as National Public Works Week and June 19-25 as Ames Pollinator Week.