Miller: Bondurant couple tickled pink at new stadium's Hawkeye touch

Bryce Miller

BONDURANT, Ia. – This whole Cy-Hawk football week does things to people … personal things, emotional things, colorful things.

More specifically, it brings out pink things — like the paint splashed two coats deep, floor to ceiling, around the visitor's meeting room that makes its varsity football debut at Bondurant-Farrar's new $4.2 million stadium.

And it's not just any old shade of pink.

This one has a name: "Innocence" by Sherwin-Williams, the exact version used in the visitor's locker room at Iowa City's Kinnick Stadium — thanks to former coach and part-time psychologist Hayden Fry.

The locker room is the spot where Iowa State will suit up Saturday to face the Hawkeyes in a game that has kicked the state into high gear annually since 1977.

Fans in the state name children and pets Kinnick, order license plates with dizzying variations of the word "Cy" and turn offices into argument-inducing seas of black and cardinal. In some places, The Big Game permeates life even more uniquely, in full-blown Pepto-Bismol.

"I just kind of threw the idea out there jokingly," said Mary Lohse, a Hawkeye fan from forehead to heels. "Because Hayden Fry, he's a stud."

The stadium exists for this week's varsity home opener against Nevada because Mary stopped at the Bondurant Casey's General Store on Sept. 26, 2012. Lohse bought an Iowa Lottery ticket, bagging the second-biggest jackpot in state history ($202 million).

Mary and Brian Lohse decided to collect the lump sum, an after-tax amount of $90.1 million, and immediately started to transform the town of 4,200. They opened a $4.5 million grocery store to create convenience and jobs. They kicked in $3.4 million for the football stadium.

The couple made just one smile-cueing request.

The decision to make the visitor's room pink, a la Fry and Iowa, brought attention and debate from national programs such as "Inside Edition" and the "Today" show. Those who expressed concerns — over the years at Iowa and now at Bondurant-Farrar — contended it amounted to subtle endorsements of homophobia and sexism.

The family and school, though, stuck to their paint brushes.

"We thought about dropping it, but then I kind of dug in my heels even harder," Mary Lohse said. "We didn't want to bow to people making it something that it's not."

Brian jumped in: "It was in the back of our minds all the time. We had some concern about it, because there was some backlash."

Bondurant-Farrar athletic director Maury Ruble is a big-time fan of Iowa State. That's the place where his father worked for a decade, the place that provided his family nine degrees and the place where they've bought season tickets for 42 seasons.

Ruble said he despised Fry growing up, but now respects the iconic, homespun coach in bucketfuls after learning about his unique thinking and efforts to integrate the old Southwest Conference while coaching at SMU.

On this colorful topic, though — the most interesting wrinkle in a beaut of a high school stadium — Cyclones and Hawkeyes alike have banded together in ways that would make Democrats and Republicans blush.

"So many things," Ruble said, "get politically hijacked."

The main impression of the stadium, away from the pink corner few will ever see: The place is state-of-the-art, from the high-tech track to the on-field play clock, sound system and $100,000 scoreboard rising above nearby cornfields.

Thad Long, the project planner with Des Moines-based SVPA Architects Inc. and a Bondurant resident, said the most impressive element of the stadium is the family that made it happen.

"For Bondurant, this is huge," Long said. "It would have been two or three years before they could even talk about bonding for something like this, and you don't know if the community would have voted for it.

"It's a godsend, is what it is. The Lohses are so generous. They feel like their money is community money. This project is three years ahead of time because of them, if it happens at all."

That reality remains the most crucial part of the stadium project, regardless of its one uncommon touch.

That's just the Hawkeye in Mary oozing out.

"I cried at work when I heard (Fry) retired," she said. "I was a mess."

Another sign of the low-key way in which the Lohses approach a project they made happen: Brian has one responsibility on Friday.

"I'll be in the concession stand, bagging popcorn," he said.

The community, no doubt, will be tickled pink.

Bryce Miller can be reached at 515-284-8288 or Follow him on Twitter: @Bryce_A_Miller