Kinnick renovations get under way, and some Iowa football scheduling news

Mark Emmert

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Work has begun on the $89.9 million upgrade to Kinnick Stadium, although it won’t affect the Iowa football team’s April 21 spring game, athletic director Gary Barta said Thursday.

The initial work involves the sewer and water lines underneath the north end zone, which is scheduled to be refurbished by the time the 2019 season begins. The contractor for the project, chosen after a bidding process, is JE Dunn of Des Moines.

“The drain tile and some of the work underneath the northern end zone is being done this summer. The walls on the side need to be replaced on the field level,” Barta said.

Iowa cheerleaders and fans joined the players on the field at Kinnick Stadium to celebrate a 14-13 win over Michigan last November. The stadium will have new turf when this season kicks off, and hopefully a couple of more night games on tap, athletic director Gary Barta said.

After that comes a turf replacement that was scheduled to occur anyway. That will be in place by the time the 2017 season kicks off Sept. 2 against Wyoming.

Will that new turf include a Tiger Hawk logo, which a segment of fans have been loudly clamoring for? Barta was mum on that. He said the turf hasn’t been ordered yet, and that designs for its look are not finalized.

“It’s great that people care so much about Hawkeye athletics,” he said with a smile. “When it’s time, we’ll unveil the look.”

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Barta also spoke about football scheduling, noting:

  • The school is close to lining up its final nonconference opponent for 2019 and hopes to have a contract signed soon. Iowa already has games lined up that season for Aug. 31 against Miami of Ohio and Sept. 14 at Iowa State. “We think we have that one filled,” Barta said of a third nonleague opponent. He said he’s still working on the 2020 schedule and beyond. Aside from the annual meeting with Iowa State, the Hawkeyes only have a Sept. 5, 2020, matchup with Northern Illinois scheduled.
  • He is hopeful that the Hawkeyes will get another two home night games this fall. Last year, Iowa hosted — and defeated — Iowa State and Michigan under the lights. Barta said the decision on kick-off times is ultimately up to the Big Ten Conference and its TV partners, but he does request “a couple of games that make sense” each season. For example, two years ago he asked that a game against Pitt be played at night as he “wanted some more momentum in the program.” Iowa ended up beating Pitt 27-24. “It’s a nice change. I think the environment’s been exciting,” Barta said of night games. The Hawkeyes should learn of any night kickoffs this spring.
  • He hasn’t changed his thinking on Friday night games. The Big Ten announced last year that it would schedule some Friday games to get more TV exposure in coming years, but pulled back a little last week. Two Northwestern games originally scheduled for Friday were moved to Saturdays this fall. The biggest outcry against the move came from state high school associations — including Iowa’s — that were concerned with competition for fans wanting to attend their games. “We only agreed at Iowa that we would consider to play occasionally on Labor Day weekend Friday,” Barta reiterated. “In that case, then the high school association will know about it the fall before and they’ll be able to offer for any high schools that would like to, to change their games to Thursday nights, which a lot of schools do anyway. It’s not the choice of the high school association. I don’t want to suggest that. We will be asked at some point, I’m sure, to play on that Friday night event, and we’ll at least be able to mitigate it.” That means the earliest Iowa would play on a Friday night would be the 2018 opener against Northern Illinois.