Iowa State University nameplate

Inside Iowa State
Gold bar
January 26, 2001

Officials: Reiman fee necessary

by Steve Sullivan
Visitors to Reiman Gardens will pay an admission fee, probably beginning this spring.

Iowa State officials say a proposed admission fee to the Reiman Gardens is necessary because of the gardens' growth in size, complexity and use, and to cover projected deficits. Reiman Gardens' 14 acres feature a variety of gardens, a pond and a gardening house. Construction on a $10 million conservatory and butterfly house will begin this summer.

News of the admission fee has sown some seeds of dissent. The (Ames) Daily Tribune and Iowa State Daily have received several letters from members of the Ames and Iowa State community who are critical of the action.

"Many people view Reiman Gardens as a park with free, 24-hour access. But the gardens have doubled in size in the last year and are getting increasing use," said Teresa McLaughlin, Reiman manager. "We realize many Ames residents have taken the gardens into their hearts and some are upset about an admission fee. But the gardens are much more than a park and require more focused management and support from a mix of sources."

Murray Blackwelder, vice president for external affairs, said the growth of the gardens was laid out in a 1993 master plan. However, growth occurred more swiftly than expected. He added that a fee, either for admissions or parking, has been under consideration for a few years.

"We've been able to develop a beautiful $20 million facility for Iowa State University, the Ames community and the state of Iowa, in an unexpectedly short period of time," Blackwelder said. "We now are in a position of having to seek a variety of sources of funding for the gardens. An admission fee is one source."

Other proposed funding sources are university funding for academic programs, the gardens' endowment, facility rental fees, and future catering and gift shop income.

The decision to institute an admission fee was made after careful study of the Reiman Gardens' budget and fall meetings with various community groups, McLaughlin said.

She added the admission fee is not intended to generate a profit for the gardens, but to help meet operating expenses.

This year, Reiman Gardens' budget is approximately $470,000, while its estimated income is $427,000. The budget is expected to increase to $1.6 million in fiscal year 2003, due primarily to costs related to the conservatory and butterfly house, care and maintenance of the gardens, increased staffing and a bigger marketing program.

By contrast, university support for FY2003 is projected at $880,000, McLaughlin said. Revenue from an admission fee, rental income, tours, caf and gift shop sales and in-house catering arrangements are budgeted to alleviate the deficit and balance the operating budget, she said.

Iowa State's support comes from both private fund raising and the general fund. In fact, the gardens eventually will receive $250,000 annually from a $5 million endowment. But to provide all the needed annual funding for Reiman Gardens, the endowment needs to be $30 million, McLaughlin said.

Garden officials consulted officials at other public and private gardens to determine the admission fee. Area gardens charge an admission fee, including the Botanical Center in Des Moines and the Arboretum in Boone. Many university-based gardens across the country charge a fee, including gardens at the University of California, Berkeley, University of Utah, University of Minnesota, and University of Mississippi.

The gardens are used by the colleges of Agriculture (horticulture, entomology), Business (marketing), and Liberals Arts and Sciences and Design (biological/pre-medical illustration), as well as by extension's Master Gardeners Program.

Provost Rollin Richmond recently appointed an academic advisory committee consisting of representatives from all the colleges for the gardens.

"The Academic Advisory Committee is in the process of redefining the educational mission and vision for the gardens. In addition, it will focus on helping all faculty use the gardens as a classroom," said committee member Wendy Wintersteen, senior associate dean of Agriculture.

The gardens have an estimated annual attendance of 70,000. Attendance could double with the opening of the butterfly house and conservatory, McLaughlin said. Based on informal surveys, 40 to 50 percent of the people visiting the gardens come from outside the Ames area.

While a university facility, most of the gardens' events are private gatherings, such as weddings, and graduation and anniversary parties. Of the 250 rentals that occur annually, only about 20 were related to academic units at the university and those were largely staff retreats and business meetings. Last year, the gardens hosted approximately 5,000 K-12 school children in tours.

Tentative fee schedule

A tentative fee schedule for Reiman Gardens has been developed, and officials now are looking into membership packages, as well as the possibility of free days sponsored by the CoHorts, the garden's volunteer group. The tentative fee schedule is:

Basic individual membership $35
Immediate family
(includes grandchildren)
* Unlimited visits for the year

Daily admission
Adults $5
Ages 6 to 18 $3
Ages 5 and under Free
Group tours $4/person
K-12 school group tours $2/person
ISU classes Free, unlimited use

... Becoming the Best
Ames, Iowa 50011, (515) 294-4111
Published by: University Relations,
Copyright © 1995-2001, Iowa State University. All rights reserved.