UI’s University Club closes next year

Jun 16, 2017 at 5:55 pm | Print View

IOWA CITY — A decade after buying the University Athletic Club, the University of Iowa next year will shutter the 57-year-old social and events center as part of a broader redevelopment.

The Sept. 4, 2018, closure — announced last week in a letter to members — leaves the future of the building and the property uncertain for now, eliminates 40-some student-filled positions and forces regular users like the Iowa City Noon Rotary Club to find new accommodations.

“It’s up to the group and others who have secured space for meetings, events, etc. at the University Club to decide if they’d like to use another facility,” said UI spokeswoman Anne Bassett.

The club debuted in 1960 as a privately-owned social club and event center for members with ties to the UI community. In the decades since, it has offered its hundreds of annual members an array of services, including access to a six-lane pool, tennis court, restaurant and Hawkeye game-day parking.

In summer 2008, following severe flooding that damaged the Iowa Memorial Union, the university began leasing space in the club for some IMU operations. The UI purchased the club in December 2008 and rebranded it the University Club.

University officials Friday reported 2016 revenue at $1.19 million, with expenses reaching $1.18 million.

A 2015 internal audit highlighted numerous shortcomings in operations, including failure to properly record and reconcile receipts and member balances.

The club “does not utilize a cash register or issue pre-numbered receipts for Rotary Club luncheons, therefore, revenue generated from this weekly event cannot be verified,” found the audit, which made recommendations the UI each addressed in some fashion.

Membership dipped in 2016, dropping to about 400 from about 600 in 2013, university officials said. Membership stands at 440 this year.

The university decided to close the club after the UI Department of Intercollegiate Athletics studied the feasibility of building a new Finkbine Golf Course clubhouse on or near the site of the existing “functionally obsolete” clubhouse, which sits just west of the club.

The Board of Regents last fall gave the university the go-ahead on plans for a $10.8 million, 20,000-gross-square-foot clubhouse to be funded with athletics gifts and earnings.

“As part of the clubhouse planning and design process, the consultants were asked to consider possible future uses of the University Club site in the master plan,” Bassett said.

Rod Lehnertz, UI vice president for finance and operations, said his staff is studying potential uses in conjunction with the Finkbine project. The expectation, he said by email, is to provide more details during the regents’ August meeting.

The University Club employs six university staff members. IMU Executive Director Bill Nelson said in a letter last week that officials were developing a staff retention and transition plan for them. The club also provides about 40 positions filled by students, including lifeguards and waiters. The affected students “will be able to apply for other positions across campus when needed,” Bassett said.

The letter to members vowed to continue honoring membership benefits for the next 15 months.

“We look forward to this final year with you,” the letter said.

l Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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