Barta addresses fans' football concerns: 'No. 1, we have to win'

Chad Leistikow
Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz, left, and athletic director Gary Barta talk before a game in 2013. Barta and the Iowa athletic department have been revamping fans' gameday experience at Kinnick Stadium the past week as the deadline for season ticket renewals approaches.

IOWA CITY, Ia. – Iowa's athletic department showed in the last week it's playing some offense as the deadline for football season ticket renewals approaches.

Three things happened in the last seven days. Iowa was awarded two home night games; athletic director Gary Barta joined a conference call with uncertain ticket holders; and alcohol-related tailgating restrictions were relaxed.

Barta's goal in all of it is to improve fans' gameday experience at Kinnick Stadium.

"We have a great tradition of filling the stadium," Barta said Saturday. "And so we're going to continue, each and every year, to try and make that gameday better."

It's been well-documented that Barta has heard from many unhappy fans about a variety of complaints, particularly the on-field results. He called last season's 7-6 record a disappointment that didn't meet expectations.

Among the feedback was a desire for more night games. Barta campaigned with the Big Ten Network for that, and the result was late kickoffs against Pittsburgh (Sept. 19) and Minnesota (Nov. 14).

And in his first interview since releasing Friday that fans will be allowed an extra hour of alcohol consumption after 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. kickoffs, Barta spoke about wanting to increase the fun while continuing to stand against past "deep-seated" alcohol abuse.

"In the last two or three years, our fans have been terrific," Barta said. "Really the numbers of arrests, the number of issues with alcohol had gone way down. So we want to try to continue to relax that where we can, and continue to have a great gameday environment."

Iowa parking lots designated for tailgating near Kinnick Stadium are shown in 2013.

Season ticket holders wanting to keep their seats from last year need to renew by April 24. In February, Iowa offered those who renewed early $70 in concession vouchers.

Though none of these gameday tweaks are earth-shattering, Barta said Saturday more would be coming. He realizes there are gripes about the new sound system at Kinnick Stadium, but he thinks it's gotten better.

"The first year, we put in the video board — it was great technology. I'd give us a C in how we managed it Year 1," Barta said. "Year 2, we made a lot of changes, and I would give us a B (or) B-plus. We're going to continue to try to utilize the sound system and new video board and get better at that."

Not lost, though, on the ninth-year Iowa A.D. (who has given head football coach Kirk Ferentz a vote of confidence for a 17th season) is that wins are the ultimate path to filling Kinnick Stadium to its 70,565 capacity.

Iowa ranked 22nd nationally in 2014 with an average home attendance of 67,512 fans, a slight uptick from 2013. A dip is expected this year, especially with the marquee visiting attraction (maybe) being Minnesota — there's no Iowa State, Wisconsin or Nebraska on the schedule to pad the numbers.

"Compared to our peers, we're doing a great job," Barta said. "That said, we want to have it sold out every game. In order to that we know, No. 1, we have to win."