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Construction is set to be completed before the 2019 football season Hawk Central

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IOWA CITY, Ia. — Charlie Taylor still remembers the early stages of demolition, and the mixed emotions that came with it. Excitement, anticipation and nervousness all blended together as Kinnick Stadium’s north end zone came crashing down last winter.

“The day after your last football game, you knock down one end of your stadium. We were all pretty much saying to ourselves, ‘Well, no turning back now,’” Iowa’s associate athletic director of strategic communications and marketing recalled. “But look where we’re at.

“So excitement, No. 1. And then I’d also say there’s been some trepidation. But we’re here. It’s ready to go. And let’s play some football.”  

Such was the general message Tuesday, as some of the key figures in the north end zone renovation met with the media after a tour.

The project has always been a two-step endeavor — set to be completed ahead of the 2019 season — but those involved stressed enough of the makeover is complete for fans to enjoy the upgrades this year. They’ll get their first look Saturday, when Iowa kicks off the season against Northern Illinois.

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“I know when I get asked, ‘What’s it like in that new north end zone?’ I can’t emphasize enough the view that those fans are going to get to experience in that north end zone,” Iowa assistant athletics director/facilities Damian Simcox said Tuesday. “I think those seats are all spectacular seats in that north end zone.

“You’re so much more on top of the action than anywhere else in the stadium. So I think once our fans really see that view — see those seats over there — I think they’re really going to enjoy those.”

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The $89 million project will see the north end zone split into three levels: 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 once everything is done.

The completion of the premium seating level, including loge boxes, stands as one of the more noteworthy items set to finish before the 2019 season. Other items that won’t be ready this season are the new scoreboard, permanents restrooms and concession stands and elevators.

Given the project’s extensiveness and longevity, Taylor said he’s naturally fielded concerns about the end zone’s status for 2018. He understands the apprehension, but is quick to detail the progress that’s been made.

“I call that human nature,” Taylor said. “If my family has been sitting in the north end zone for 50 years and I’m sitting in my grandad’s grandad’s seats, I’ve had people come up and say, ‘Hey, is it going to be ready? Are the seats going to be in?’

“… I think it’s more of just new and different and (fans) haven’t been in it yet. I personally felt a lot of great feedback after Kids’ Day. You know, ‘Wows' and 'Awesome' and 'Can’t wait to go in there.’ I think it’s just the unknown, where any trepidation is coming from.”

The construction schedule throughout the season is pretty straightforward. Mike Kearns, senior construction project manager for the university, said crews will work Monday through Thursday ahead of home games and have the stadium “game ready” by the end of day on Thursdays. No materials or tools will get in the way on Saturdays.

When Iowa is on the road, work will run on a “five-and-six days a week schedule, depending on which contractors want to work then.”

The Hawkeyes’ schedule does provide a nice window after the Sept. 22 home game against Wisconsin. Iowa doesn’t return to Kinnick again until Oct. 20 against Maryland. That’s a bye week and two road games to knock out a solid chunk of construction.

“It was a fortunate circumstance,” Kearns said. “It wasn’t certainly planned, but we’re going to take full advantage of it. Not having to demobilize from the site basically for a weekend and then remobilize back on Monday, you save a lot of time.”

Much time has passed since Taylor saw those first seats come tumbling down. The renovation still has a ways to go, but the optimism is there that what’s been done will more than hold fans over until the final touches.    

“I think by 90 minutes before kickoff on Saturday,” Taylor said, “a lot of that trepidation will start to go away, because people will be in their seats.”

Dargan Southard covers Iowa and UNI athletics, recruiting and preps for the Des Moines Register, HawkCentral.com and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Email him at msouthard@gannett.com or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.

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