Are you in college? Do you attend Iowa State University and want to live close to campus but far enough away that the rules of the campus dorms don’t apply? Come live in Cyclone Plaza! We are now accepting low-tolerance drunks, people with bad gag reflexes, and girls who like to live alongside guys who will whistle as you walk by. We can offer you hallways to puke in, balconies to throw beer cans off of, and stairwells perfect for screaming fights with your significant other. Don’t worry about noise, the tenants are used to it or they will be within a few weeks.
A sample lease for Cyclone Plaza, a high-rise apartment building in Campustown, states on “Friday and Saturday, it is agreed that there will be no “parties” and no stereo or conversation loud enough to be heard in the common hallway or adjacent apartments.” Despite what the lease says, Cyclone Plaza has another agenda.
Stepping off the elevator at any given evening hour or on an early morning stagger can overload your senses with the bitter smell of beer, the noise of blared rap music, and the sight of scuffed walls. Not to mention the sticky, snail-like trial of a keg being rolled down the hallway. “Thirsty Thursdays” are typical nights for parties, but to experience the full effect of living in Cyclone Plaza you will need to spend a weekend there.
Entering through the door at 1:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning, directed by a trail of empty beer cans – Keystone and Bud Light – leads one to the “security point” where although the door frame is still in tact, the glass is shattered on the ground. The security of the building is now pointless. Maybe this is why rent is $415 a month. As people crouch down and step through the busted doorway to wait for an elevator that smells of beer and an overdose of Armani cologne, I questioned why I called this place “home.” As four people file in behind me, I notice they are all holding onto the railing, eyes squinting and foggy – drunk. Let’s just hope they aren’t going to third floor. The tall, dark, handsome, but stumbling guy pushes “3” and I roll my sober eyes. As the elevator rises and reveals the streets below, I realize it’s not a big deal. I can sleep through anything anyway.
The echoes of laughter rush through the third floor cement hallway as I get out. High-heels, short dresses, and halter-tops in 20-degree weather lean against the wall. The girl has her game face on tonight, the guy confident with his stupid remarks. Loud, bass-bumping, keg-pumping rants, laughter, and music are my lullabies. The next morning is a different story.
Waking up in Cyclone Plaza is unlike anything else except maybe Legacy Tower, another high-rise just caddy-corner to the northwest. Weekend mornings start out with finding Keystone beer spilt into the entryway to my apartment with the empty can laying just outside the door. But unlike the entire night and early morning hours, everything is quiet because since 6 a.m. all my drunken floor-mates have gone to bed – or should I say passed out. Stepping into the hallway reveals the craziness displayed the night before and walking out of Cyclone Plaza and entering Campustown after a night described above is nothing but refreshing. Only a block west on Welch Avenue, the same sidewalks that those high-heeled girls and staggering guys engulfed the night before, is abandoned. But don’t get me wrong, it’ll be busy tonight, even if it is a Sunday night.
Alcohol is many college students’ stress reliever and the Campustown bars are there to provide the medication. I walk down to Angie’s Kitchen, a breakfast joint that serves late night and early morning customers on Lincoln Way in Campustown, to eat French toast. The lady looks at me and says, “You look like you’re sober, I’ll let you use the syrup bottle.” As my faces wrinkles and eyes go confused, she immediately answers my silent question. “If people come in drunk, I only give them syrup packets.” It clicks in my mind and I laugh.
Across the diner a few, I assume, roommates are sitting baseball caps pulled over their unwashed hair, sweatpants still wrinkled from bed, and in front of them sits a pitcher of water. Water: the first step in curing a hangover. They probably live in Campustown too, Cyclone Plaza possibly.
What kind of people run these apartment buildings that aren’t taken care of? Who punishes the tenants when it’s their last warning to quiet down? Answer: Campustown Property Management. But although the lease states that the tenants only have a few warnings before extensive meetings are conducted, tenants say they don’t enforce the rules much. Campustown Property Management is located on the ground floor of Cyclone Plaza and owns 18 properties in Campustown, including Cyclone Plaza. The most recognized buildings include Legacy Tower, Cyclone Plaza’s brother high-rise, Brickstone Place, just west, and Stanton Heights, located directly south.
The owners say even though it can get pretty rowdy on the weekends, the location makes it worth it to many college students. Cyclone Plaza Tenant Carrie agreed. “I think it’s a great location for campus and the bars, although, it’s outrageously priced and the realty company is less than easy to work with,” she said.”Students who turn 21 before moving into Cyclone Plaza are probably thinking they can go out to the bar, drink however much they want, and walk home.”
Cyclone Plaza is located on the corner of Stanton Avenue and Chamberlain Street just one block east of Welch Avenue. Welch Ave is the central block for over twelve bars, dancing, tattoo and piercing parlors, along with a bikini bar: Dangerous Curves. Students have said that Ames is boring if you are not 21 because by law you must be 21 to enter the bars anywhere in Ames. A year ago, Iowa City, home to the University of Iowa, tried to pass the same law but failed when minors voted against it.
Campustown has not always been a place to bar hop. Back in its hay-day it was a practical place for all college students, which provided a Hy-Vee, a few drug stores, and places to eat lunch without alcohol served. Now that the college society has changed, Campustown has adjusted to its audience – binge-drinkers. Minors never stroll the streets unless it’s to grab Jimmy Johns while daydreaming about their 21st birthday; when they finally will be old enough to fit into the mold of Welch Ave. Bars are at their maximum capacity every weekend night. Lines form outside Mickey’s Irish Pub, Paddy’s, and Welch Avenue Station in the freezing temperatures for people to socialize and of course drink. Minors try to find the “perfect” fake ID to test the bouncers or go to house parties where they get equally as drunk as they could be at a bar. The college life has changed drastically. Drinking alcohol has become a favorite pastime.
This leads back to Cyclone Plaza: the home of house parties for minors, the closest place to call “home” once the desired buzz from the bars has been obtained. Cyclone Plaza was recommended by 14% of the tenants who reviewed the building on apartmentratings.com. An anonymous tenant on September 27,2008 posted, “For being one of the most expensive apartments in Ames this place is a real dump. All the neighbors are very rude and have no respect for their own building. You can expect to find holes in the walls of the hallway and garbage littered throughout the building on a regular basis, and the hallways always smell like smoke and beer.”
Price is a huge factor when leasing with Campustown Property Management. For a four-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in Cyclone Plaza it costs $1,660 per month divided up by four roommates comes to $415 per person. If you have a car, expect to walk a ways to the nearest ramp, which will cost an additional $30 to $40 a month. In the winter, don’t expect to be warm thanks to the drafty windows and ice-cold cement floors. Don’t forget to pay utilities monthly either – add another $50 bucks per roommate. How can students afford this much per month and still gather at the bar for a good time? It seems impossible, really, but when friends call, one’s social life takes priority. The only thing to do is to give in and accept the norm.
It’s college, you go to class, or you don’t; you graduate in four years, or you don’t; and you go out and drink at the bars, or you stay in Cyclone Plaza listening to it happen ALL NIGHT. Why listen if you can be a part of the commotion?
If you’re okay with paying for a place that smells, looks beat up, and has dirty, cold cement floors…Cyclone Plaza welcomes you. If you want to party in a place that’s not yours, puke all over a bathroom that you don’t have to clean, and leave the mess behind…Cyclone Plaza wants you to come party. If you like to drink heavily, feel comfortable passing out on a stranger’s couch, and are excessively loud… you will fit in perfectly. If you aren’t, don’t live there. Simple.