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IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa filed paperwork with the Board of Regents on Tuesday seeking approval for a nearly $90 million renovation of the north end zone in Kinnick Stadium.
The project is now on the docket for next week’s Regents meeting. The UI has pledged to raise $100 million for the $89.9 million budget. According to the documents released Tuesday, the project would replace the north end zone seating, which hasn’t been renovated since the early 1980s. It’s an area that has drawn complaints from some fans on how cramped and uncomfortable it is.
Iowa plans to replace the general-admission area with “upper and lower general admission seating bowls, two general admission concourses and a premium club level.”
UI athletics officials will not comment on the project until after the Regents meeting scheduled for next Thursday in Cedar Falls.
Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz was asked about the north end zone during his weekly news conference.
“It’s pretty neat,” Ferentz said. “To me, this is the next step. I’ve seen some drawings and they just look spectacular.”
Within the document, the UI laid out its multiyear financial forecast through the fiscal year 2024-25. That chart contained some significant numbers.
— Iowa will be using money from the Big Ten TV deal to finance the north end zone. The Sports Business Journal broke the B1G TV news this summer, with Fox being the main rights holder and that ESPN also will hold half of the league’s new media rights deal, an expected $2.64 billion total for six years.
The Big Ten hasn’t refuted the SBJ reports, but no one has confirmed the deal. The UI essentially confirms with a paragraph that states “Beginning in 2017-18 through 2022-23, Athletic Conference Distributions reflect conservative estimated increases related to television contract negotiations by the Big Ten, which have been agreed to, but have not been committed to final contract form. The initial estimates provided by the Big Ten may increase once the contract is finalized. The contract has been negotiated for six years, so an estimated escalator of 3 percent has been included for years 2023-24 and beyond.”
— The budget also includes what Iowa received from the Big Ten in 2016-17 (more than $34 million) and what it “conservatively” expects to receive from the Big Ten when the new TV contracts are signed.
The UI projects a nearly $9 million increase in the conference payout next year (more than $43 million). The finances top out at nearly $54 million from the B1G in 2024-25, which is included in a nearly $131 million revenue projection for UI sports.
— This isn’t going to happen overnight.
Construction will be ongoing for “several years” with some work happening before the 2017 season. The current north end zone won’t be razed until after the 2017 season.
The lower and upper bowl general admission seating is planned to be complete before the 2018 season. All construction is to be complete before 2019.
This project would come with inherent logistical challenges. Kinnick Stadium’s north end zone section rests within feet of Evashevski Drive, which separates the stadium from the university’s new transportation center and a major hospital parking garage.
— The seating breakdown would be this: 8,516 general admission seating in lower and upper seating bowls, 1,570 outdoor club seats at the club level with premium amenities and 148 seats in loge and premium patio space for a total of 10,234 seats.
Currently, the Kinnick end zones hold an estimated 10,000 to 11,000 fans.
A “loge” space is, typically, groups of four seats that include counter space, a small TV and access to lounge. It’s a hybrid between a suite and a club seat.
— The redesign could alter stadium capacity, which now stands at 70,585. Iowa ranked 24th in football attendance last year, and Iowa athletics director Gary Barta has said he wants the program to remain in the top 25.
— Iowa last renovated Kinnick Stadium in 2006 for $89 million. That included a reconstructed south end zone, west side premium seating and suites inside a new press box along with more restrooms, new locker rooms and wider concourses.
— There is a section in the UI’s request that’s titled “External Forces Justifying Approval.” And the UI states:
“Intercollegiate athletics is influenced by the actions of peer institutions competing for the best student-athletes from across Iowa and the nation. Changing market forces including the recent growth in collegiate sports television networks and revenue, are significantly impacting viewership and changing how stadium facilities are designed and operated. Modern stadiums are going beyond offering seats, to offering more amenities and options for entertainment to enhance the game-day experience for fans. Improvements would also enhance the ability to increase use of Kinnick Stadium.”
This is the game now, and as Ferentz said, this is the next step.
“This is the next step of the program continuing to push forward,” he said. “It’s like anything in life, anything that’s competitive, if you’re not pushing forward, you’re probably not doing the right thing. I think it’s the next step. There’s a lot of work that’s going to have to go into that, and I’m eager to help any way I can ... once we get done with the season.
“If we want to be a first-class program, we need to keep pushing forward.”
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