Iowa’s football season opens this weekend against Miami of Ohio.
IOWA CITY – You’re (super) excited for Hawkeye football. You’re also (super) busy. But stop here for a few minutes, because there’s a lot you should know before trekking to Kinnick Stadium for Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. season opener against Miami of Ohio.
Here’s the one-paragraph version:
Don’t get delayed by the new clear-bag policy; avoid Dubuque Street; enjoy no-deadline tailgating after the game; and look for an improved fan experience inside and around the stadium with around 70,000 of your black-and-gold friends. With the right plan, you can get the most of your Saturday.
Here’s the detailed version:
‘Let’s be clear’ about safety
That’s the slogan the University of Iowa is using to emphasize the clear-bag policy modeled after the NFL's. Only small clutch bags (about the size of a hand) and clear plastic bags not exceeding 12-by-12-by-6 inches are permitted inside Kinnick. If you forget/ignore this, you’ll be annoyed and you might miss kickoff. Because your next-best option is to walk to the Rec Building and check your non-compliant bag (for free), where you might find another long line.
Educate your friends. If everyone can get this down, you won’t get stacked up at the gate in the usual mass rush 30 minutes before kickoff.
Alternative traffic routes
Because of a two-year Iowa City Gateway project, approach Kinnick via Dubuque Street (Exit 244 off Interstate 80) at your own risk. One of the primary gameday paths is down to two lanes (from four) between Foster and Park roads. Silver lining: After the game, that stretch of Dubuque Street will become a one way en route to Interstate Highway 80.
“Arrive early,” UI associate athletics director Charlie Taylor said. “Traffic in and out of Dubuque Street will be packed.”
A local tip if you’re coming from the east: Take Dodge Street (Exit 246) all the way to Burlington Street, and turn right to slice through downtown. Approaching from the west, Exit 240 should have less traffic than Exit 242. The Hawkeye Express train (2441 James St.; there is a charge) offers an option for fans who want to avoid traffic/parking.
Some fun stuff
If you are well-prepared for parking and security, the rest is all fun. Postgame tailgating is now unlimited for daytime (pre-6 p.m.) kickoffs. That’s a big, fan-friendly change.
Beer and wine are permitted in UI lots; hard liquor and tobacco products are not. Mass alcohol consumption (such as beer bongs) won’t be tolerated, either.
“We want fans to drink responsibly,” Taylor said. “We all know that huddle of the family before and after the football game is important to who we are.”
Central hub of activity
The UI's “Fans First” initiative is highlighted with a beefed-up tailgate atmosphere at the Krause Family Plaza (outside the south end zone, a short walk from the train stop), starting at 9:30 a.m. It’s especially designed for fans without a tailgating home.
In addition to hosting a DJ and the Hawkeye Radio pregame show, the plaza will feature big-screen TVs airing football. (Insider tip: You can catch the pregame “Hit Film” here first that gets shown internally to the team.) It’s here you can also watch the Hawk Walk — players and coaches going from the bus to the stadium — around 12:30 p.m. A performance by the Hawkeye marching band will follow, in the 1-1:30 range.
Meantime, follow @TheIowaHawkeyes on Twitter and @hawkeyefootball on Instagram; embedded personnel blasting out team updates throughout the day. You’ll probably want to head into Kinnick by 1:45.
Fun for the kids
From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., the (free) Hawkeye Kids Zone offers a family-friendly tailgate area on the new football practice fields adjacent to Duane Banks Field. Spirit squads, athletes from other UI sports teams and Herky the Hawk will be there, along with an inflatable obstacle course.
A recommendation: Cut out of the Kids Zone around 12:15 and head over to see the Hawk Walk.
Also: New food!
Some of the food improvements inside Kinnick Stadium include an offering of chips and queso from Pancheros Mexican Grill; cookies from Molly’s Cupcakes; a new “hopdog” from 30hop Rooftop Coralville; nacho and potato chips from Kitchen Cooked; and pizza from Pizza Ranch.
One last thing
It looks like it’ll be a gorgeous afternoon, with temperatures in the 70s. That could attract a big walk-up crowd for tickets. There were about 4,000 available as of Thursday. It’s the cheapest ticket of the season ($55 for adults, $25 for kids). To avoid the line on game day, visit hawkeyesports.com or call 1-800-IA-HAWKS.