If you’ve been tooling around Iowa City, or pulling up Kinnick Stadium's webcams, or just scrolling through photo updates on social media, you have probably noticed that the north end zone is under heavy construction.
It’s a massive undertaking; 2.7 million pounds of structural steel and 7 million pounds of precast concrete are required.
And it's going up fast.
With less than three months until the 2018 Iowa football season, steel beams and construction equipment are visible and crews are hard at work.
The next-door Tigerhawk on the water tower is done. But this is the biggie. This is the project that’ll affect nearly 70,000 fans on fall Saturdays.
So this feels like a good time to answer questions you might have about this $89 million project.
What’s happening exactly?
A good place to start — the basics. The “Kinnick Edge” project is gutting and rebuilding a part of the historic stadium that hadn’t really been touched since the 1980s.
A cramped and dated grandstand is becoming a three-tiered, modernized structure, with final completion by the start of the 2019 season.
The university’s attack plan was to increase premium seating options while significantly improving fan amenities like concessions, restrooms, sights and sounds and precious-at-Kinnick leg room.
“It’s on schedule,” UI senior associate athletic director Matt Henderson said, “and it’s on budget.”
But not everything will be ready for the 2018 season. As Henderson noted, “a little patience” is required.
What will (and won’t) be completed for the Sept. 1 opener?
The short answer of what will be ready to roll when the Hawkeyes face Northern Illinois in a 2:30 p.m. game: Fan seating.
“It’s still a construction site,” Henderson said. “We will have occupancy for the seven Saturdays.”
The stuff that’ll need to be done following Iowa's last 2018 home game (Nov. 23 vs. Nebraska) includes installation of restrooms, concession stands, a scoreboard and elevators.
For these seven home football Saturdays, Iowa will use an area on Evashevksi Drive (behind the North stands) to house portable toilets and sell concessions. North end zone patrons who'd rather not use a port-a-potty can still swing around on the contiguous concourse to restrooms underneath the east or west stands.
What will be new (and better) upon north end zone completion?
There should be cool stuff that emerges from an $89 million project. And there is.
Changes you’ll see this fall:
- Chair backs! For the first time in the main Kinnick stands, permanent chairs ($200 per seat donation; 712 total) are being installed in the first four rows of the new third level.
- More elbow (and butt) room. Yes, bleacher width per seat is going to 18 inches, from just under 17 previously, to match the south end zone; leg room is being increased to 30 inches from 24; and staircase aisles will be 48 inches wide with hand rails, an improvement from 42 inches and no hand rails.
Changes you’ll see in 2019:
- Available restrooms will increase 144 percent (up 200 percent for women, 80 percent for men) in 2019, from 62 stalls/fixtures to 151.
- Concessions will increase from 20 point-of-sale options to 38 in 2019.
- The completion of a premium seating level that will include loge boxes, standing areas, beer and wine sales and will accommodate 1,500-plus fans.
- Two elevators — one to service those in premium seating, another for general seating — will be available for use.
- Another massive scoreboard that will be almost identical to the size that’s in the south end zone, except it’ll reach even higher. The top of the north scoreboard will be 117 feet above field level. By comparison, the south scoreboard reaches 112 feet. The top of the press box atop the west stands reaches 122 feet.
- More noise. Yes, better acoustics will be created by building upward, especially when the scoreboard is installed. Kinnick has the potential to be louder than ever before.
What is Kinnick Stadium’s new capacity?
Approximately 69,000, Henderson said — a decrease from previous capacity of 70,585.
Previously, there were 11,712 seats in the north end zone; eventually there will be roughly 10,234.
The (new) estimated breakdown: 3,696 general seats in the lower bowl; 1,570 club seats in the premium bowl; and 4,820 seats (including the 712 chair-backs) in the upper bowl.
Until all the seats are installed, we won’t know the exact capacity, Henderson said.
How is the $89 million price tag being funded?
The athletics department foots the entire bill, largely through television revenue, fund-raising and the increased premium seating.
Iowa received $37 million from TV revenue alone for the fiscal year 2017, according to USA TODAY, and that number is projected to increase to more than $50 million for fiscal year 2018. That type of annual influx certainly helps.
Fundraising is another key piece to the puzzle. Iowa’s goal is to raise $25 million for the project by September 2019; Henderson said the athletics department has raised $16 million so far and feels good about the momentum.
The 1,570 club seats could produce as much as $3.7 million in revenue (not counting resulting alcohol sales) this season — with a donation of $1,958 (a price point tied to the last season Iowa won a Rose Bowl) plus the $415 season-ticket price required. Henderson said about 1,300 of those seats have been sold for 2018.
How are/were north end zone season ticket holders affected?
This has been a common question. Season ticket holders in the north end zone, many of them long-timers, got one of the first cracks to relocate their seats for 2018, if they so desired.
Henderson said most of them stayed put.
Sales of season tickets, including in the north end zone, are ongoing. As awareness grows in what's happening with this project, it wouldn't be a surprise to see more fans signing up for the extra leg room and improved restrooms/concessions, especially heading into the 2019 season.
What else is new for 2018?
This week, Iowa announced the launch of a new "Hawkeye Village" tailgating area inside Duane Banks Field — designed for fans who want a tailgating experience but either don't have the necessary parking pass or are short on time (or both).
A purchased pass includes a game ticket and all-you-can-eat food (grilled steak sandwiches, marinated chicken breasts and Wimmer's bratwursts are your headliner proteins) and drink (beer, wine, soda and water).
Ticket prices vary depending on the game, but range from $95 to $175.
Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered sports for 23 years with the Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.