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'The Wave' at Iowa brings sense of community, pride
'The Wave' at Iowa brings sense of community, pride

IOWA CITY (AP) — Nine-year-old Maddox Smith can no longer play football, not after being treated for a golf ball-sized brain tumor and a rare genetic disorder that caused tumors to grow on his nerve cells.

Maddox has spent many, many days in the hospital. Like dozens of other children slogging through long weeks of recovery, he also has been part of college football’s newest and most heartwarming tradition.

“The Wave” has become a national sensation, with nearly everyone in 70,585-seat Kinnick Stadium turning to wave to the pediatric patients watching from University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital — a 12-story building that sits right across the street — at the end of the first quarter. The gesture was born through a combination of limited space, social media and the “Kid Captain” initiative, a partnership with the Iowa football program designed to highlight the youngsters fighting so bravely nearby.

“We were looking for ways to do something special,” said Cheryl Hodgson, the communications director for the hospital. “It’s so interesting to us to see how ‘The Wave’ has captivated everybody.”

The Hawkeyes honored Maddox before a recent game through the “Kid Captain” program. He got a jersey, tickets, a standing ovation at midfield and, most importantly, a welcome distraction after years spent fighting for his life.

“It’s just a way to give back, to make them feel part of this family that we have every Saturday,” said his father, Michael Smith. “I think it’s great for the whole country to see this.”

The story of “The Wave” actually dates to 1919, when the university opened its original children’s hospital at the location of the current one. The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics opened close to the pediatric facility in 1928. Kinnick Stadium was built a year later, separated from the children’s facility by a tiny two-way street.

Since few could have envisioned how much college football and the needs of the hospitals would grow in the decades to follow, sharing such a small footprint didn’t seem like a problem. Kinnick Stadium went through multiple renovations and expansions over the years. But the side of the field adjacent to the hospital had to be left alone because there simply wasn’t any room.

When it came time to build a new children’s hospital, designers were forced to get creative because the facility had to remain connected to the school’s other nearby hospital.

Thus, a new hospital — with pristine views of the field — was opened in February. According to Scott Turner, the executive director of the hospital, designers accentuated the locational quirk with what they call the “press box,” an event and game-watching space for patients and their families, on the top floor.

On game days, patients and their families can watch the game and, after the first quarter, wave back.

“We know that providing distraction and a sense of normalcy allows people to escape the type of things that they’re dealing with,” Turner said.

The viewing perch has helped strengthen the bond between the Hawkeyes and the hospital, one that coach Kirk Ferentz — who in August donated $1 million to bolster research into helping premature babies — made official in 2009 with the “Kid Captain” program. Thousands of parents have nominated their children to be part of the program, which also has led to similar efforts at UCLA, Minnesota and Iowa State.

“It’s incredible,” Jennifer Smith, Maddox’s mother, said of the program. “Life is too real for these kids.”

While the proximity of the hospital and the stadium, the relationship between the team and the kids, and the fan base known for being “Iowa Nice” laid the roots for “The Wave,” Facebook brought it all together. Iowa fan Krista Young posted the idea of waving to the hospital’s press box on the “Hawkeye Heaven” page, which has more than 100,000 followers, in June.

The idea soon caught fire, and after the first quarter of Iowa’s season opener Sept. 2, tens of thousands of fans got up from their seats and waved. The kids and families responded, and “The Wave” was born.

The Hawkeyes and their opponents have joined in on the fun, with Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck calling it his favorite tradition in college football.

“It’s really the unique thing about Iowa,” Hodgson said. “People care about kids and families everywhere, but we have noticed — first through the ‘Kid Captain’ program and now ‘The Wave’ — how much it means to people even if they don’t have a family member directly affected. They really kind of adopt those kids, and it feels like they’re their own and they want to go out of their way to support them.”

Amy Clark’s son, Ethan, was at the hospital to be treated for acute lymphoblastic leukemia. As the Hawkeyes prepared to play Minnesota last month, she thought about “The Wave” and what it means for the children — and their loved ones.

“I guess for me, it brings a sense of excitement to the kids that are here getting treatments or here for long term. And it makes them feel excited and normal for a minute to get out of their rooms and come up here and enjoy themselves,” she said. “And I also think it brings a sense of community to everybody that’s out there watching the football game just thinking of us. It’s a neat thing.”

Juneau commander's grandson crosses country to honor Sullivans

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y — Many generations of families in Waterloo feel a special connection to the city’s five Sullivan brothers killed during World War II.

But a California man feels such a strong connection he traveled all the way across the country to honor them — and his own grandfather.

Knute Swensen of Huntington Beach, Calif., is the grandson of U.S. Navy Capt. Lyman K. Swenson, commanding officer of the USS Juneau on which George, Francis, Joseph, Madison and Albert Sullivan served. Capt. Swenson, the Sullivans and nearly 700 shipmates perished after the Juneau was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine and sank Nov. 13, 1942.

Pat Kinney / PAT KINNEY, Courier City Editor  

Knute Swenson, left, grandson of the USS Juneau commander, came to New York from California to honor the five Sullivan brothers, the USS Juneau and his grandfather. He is shown here talking with USS The Sullivans commanding officer Russ Moore, center, and executive officer Pat Eliason.

Swensen traveled to Staten Island, N.Y., to attend a 75th anniversary commemoration of the Juneau’s sinking aboard the USS The Sullivans this Veterans Day week and weekend in New York.

“It’s amazing to honor these men 75 years later,” he said. “It makes me think about my grandfather. Almost 700 of them were on the ship. Most of them were lost. To honor them now is really something.”

He sat quietly in the audience during a commemoration ceremony until Kelly Sullivan, granddaughter and grandniece of the Sullivans, asked that he stand and be acknowledged.

His sisters attended the USS The Sullivans commissioning 20 years ago on the same pier. The anniversary of that ship’s commissioning also was observed.

Swensen’s grandfather, a posthumous recipient of the Navy Cross for valor, also had a ship named for him.(tncms-asset)43049a46-a14e-11e6-8755-00163ec2aa77[1](/tncms-asset)

Just as Kelly Sullivan said being a sponsor of the ship inspired her to be a better person, Swensen drew the same inspiration from his grandfather.

“It kept me a little bit on the straight and narrow. I guess the guilt beause he was such a fine man,” Swensen said, his voice trembling. His late father attended many reunions of his grandfather’s namesake ship, the USS The Sullivans sailor reunions and a commemoration in Juneau, Alaska.

This week’s events marking the anniversary of the Juneau’s sinking had the same effect, Swensen said. “ It was just special to have my grandfather’s name still brought up along with the Sullivan brothers and all the other men,” he said. The Juneau was commissioned across New York harbor in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Swensen’s surname differs from his grandfather’s due to a misspelling at the United States Naval Academy that his grandfather chose not to correct when he studied there.(tncms-asset)32e94d4a-a14f-11e6-b9ee-00163ec2aa77[2](/tncms-asset)

Swensen spoke years ago with one of the Juneau’s handful of survivors, the late Lester Zook, who told him his grandfather was a stern disciplinarian but respected naval commander.

In fact, Swensen said, according to stories passed on through his family, his grandfather encouraged the Sullivans and several other sets of brothers on the ship to break up and some head for other ships. “My grandfather was very fearful the ship wasn’t going to make it. It was a thin-skinned cruiser. And to have these five brothers and all these brothers on the ship, it was rough.”

Swensen visited the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum in Waterloo about a year ago. “To me it was just thrilling to go to Waterloo. The town has so much to be proud of,” he said. “From afar, the town is just known for the Sullivans.”

He said when the block containing Waterloo’s convention center is renovated and renamed Sullivan Brothers Plaza, “What I would hope in the plaza is that there’s a memorial to the Juneau with all the men’s names.” He offered his services to help.

“It’s like the Sullivans are part of my family,” he said, noting that, as a child, he was allowed to stay up past his bedtime when the movie “The Fighting Sullivans” was on television.

The camaraderie among the ship, its veterans and the families of the Sullivans and the Juneau “is kind of neat to see,” Swensen said.


Alice Dolgener is shown in her studio with one of her concept paintings for her ‘The Magic of Christmas’ painting.

Cutting historic tax credits could cripple economic development, officials warn

DES MOINES — The Orpheum Theatre in Sioux City.

Hotel Russell-Lamson in Waterloo.

The Hotel Blackhawk in Davenport.

Those are just a few among hundreds of renovation projects across Iowa that have been aided by a federal tax incentive program that is on the chopping block in Congress’ tax reform proposal.

The federal historic rehabilitation tax credit was used by more than 250 projects in Iowa between 2002 and 2016, helped spur more than $1 billion in development and produce nearly $230 million in tax revenue, according to the National Park Service, which implements the program.

The program also helped create nearly 9,000 temporary construction jobs and nearly 11,000 permanent jobs in the state, according to the National Park Service.

But that tax credit soon could be gone.

Republicans in Washington, D.C., are crafting legislation that would reform federal tax laws; it’s one of the top priorities for the party after taking control of the federal lawmaking process in the 2016 elections.

The two proposals introduced include significant cuts to the historic rehabilitation tax credit, which has been around for more than three decades.

The U.S. House tax reform bill eliminates the historic tax credit.

The U.S. Senate tax reform bill cuts the credit in half.

Local officials, especially in economic development, expressed concern that ending the historic rehabilitation tax credit could severely limit future renovation projects.

“It’s crazy,” said Amy Gill, a developer with St. Louis-based Restoration St. Louis, which has done work in the Quad-Cities. “Studies back up the fact that these tax credits work. They provide jobs and renovate downtowns. How do you argue with that?”

The House and Senate tax reform bills make significant changes to a number of tax credit and incentive programs across the business and industry spectrum. The historic rehabilitation credit program is just one of them.

But it’s one local officials are loathe to lose.

“In general, as an economic development professional, I favor tax cuts and stimulating the economy through tax reform and so on. But, in this case, I think they haven’t really considered the implications of (eliminating the historic credit),” said Marty Dougherty, economic development director for Sioux City. “Absolutely, we’re very concerned about it.”

The state of Iowa also has a historic tax credit program. That is not impacted by the proposed federal legislation.

Economic development officials say the federal historic rehabilitation tax credit program is worth maintaining because it provides a return on investment.

In Iowa, from 2002 to 2016 nearly $195 million in historical tax credits were awarded; the resulting renovation projects produced $230 million in tax revenue. By that math, every $1 in tax credits produced $1.17 in tax revenue.

That is roughly in line with national studies that have showed the historic credit returns $1.20 to $1.25 in tax revenue for every dollar invested, according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

“I just don’t see why they’re messing with a tax credit that actually puts people to work and returns money on the investment,” said Jim Hobart, of Hobart Historic Restoration in Cedar Rapids.

The historic tax credit program allows developers to claim 20 percent of eligible expenses against their federal tax liability. The program is designed to provide financial assistance to expensive renovation projects involving old buildings; such projects might not ever happen without the financial boost given by the tax credit, economic development officials say.

“There are a lot of buildings that would continue to sit empty or would have been demolished by now had that tax credit not been available to make the project economically sound,” said Steve Dust, president and CEO of the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance and Chamber. “And that’s repeated all over Iowa.”

Common projects include restorations of old buildings and converting abandoned warehouses into both commercial and residential properties.

“This is one of the few government programs where people can actually see and feel the impact,” said B.J. Hobart, also of Hobart Historic Restoration in Cedar Rapids.

Dougherty said the program has helped a number of projects in downtown Sioux City, including the Orpheum.

“It’s really sparking a renaissance in the downtown area,” Dougherty said. “I’m not sure any of (the renovation projects) would be successful without that tax credit program.”

Economic development officials said they have pleaded with Republicans in Congress to maintain the historic rehabilitation tax credit program. At least one of Iowa’s federal representatives, U.S. Rep. Rod Blum, has pledged to fight for the program.

Blum, a Republican who represents eastern Iowa, said he has lobbied U.S. House leaders to preserve the program.

Dubuque, which is in Blum’s district, has featured 36 projects totaling nearly $180 million in historic tax credits, according to the National Park Service data.

“I am continuing to work very hard to educate my colleagues of the benefits of historic tax credits to ensure they survive tax reform,” Blum said in an emailed statement. “Although they were absent from the version that recently passed through the Ways and Means Committee, the fight is not over. I am hopeful the Senate version will include this important program and I will continue to push for its inclusion through conference.”

The Senate version keeps the program, but reduces the percent of eligible, deductible expenses from 20 percent to 10 percent.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, said tax reform is about growing the economy and increasing wages and jobs by lowering rates and reducing deductions and loopholes. But he added the Senate bill recognizes the importance of the historic tax credit by maintaining it at 10 percent for the future while allowing projects already under way to retain the 20 percent credit.

Jim Hobart said the Senate version would “save a few more buildings.”

“Would I rather see 10 percent than zero? Yeah,” Hobart said. “Would I rather see them not fool with it at all and leave it at 20 percent? That would be my choice.”

Dougherty said economic development officials will continue to lobby their federal representatives and in the meantime will be “holding our breath to see what they’re going to do.”

“A lot of these buildings are part of the fabric of your community, part of the character of your community. I just can’t imagine Sioux City without the Orpheum Theater,” Dougherty said. “I think (cutting the historic tax credit program) is a little bit short-sighted.”