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The architect who was project manager of Kinnick Stadium’s north end zone renovation said this about last Saturday’s Penn State-Iowa game:
“It was loud.”
We’ll get back to him, but first I wanted more than just a functional description of that noise. So via Twitter, I asked people who were at the game to describe it. Iowa ticket-holders of 20, 30, 40 years said it was the noisiest game they’d ever attended.
Howard Samek, recognized on the Kinnick video board for witnessing his 500th-straight Hawkeyes game home and away (last year’s fan-less COVID season isn’t held against him), told a friend it was the loudest of the 500.
People have said it was as loud as any loud moment in Kinnick (Amani Hooker’s pick-6 against Ohio State in 2017, Rob Houghtlin’s game-winning field goal against Michigan in 1985).
I learned two new words as a result of asking people to tell me about the experience.
“I now have tinnitus and it was worth every second.”
“You could plug your ears and it was still so ridiculously loud, you could feel it vibrating your cochlea.”
The cochlea is part of the inner ear and tinnitus is ringing in the ears. Someone said a nearby fan took out his hearing aids. A woman said she put her fingers in her ears because they were hurting from the noise.
Several said their ears were still ringing Sunday and Monday. One said he couldn’t hear himself cheer at the game. Another said the roar “seemed to almost take me off my feet.”
The noise affected the game, for sure. The three consecutive false start penalties on Penn State late in the second quarter (and eight in the game) were due largely to the crowd noise at the north end, and each penalty only incited an even-higher decibel count.
Bill Hoefer was the Neumann Monson manager of the $89 million Kinnick Edge project for the University of Iowa that was completed in 2019. The general admission seating bowl in the north end zone was replaced with upper and lower seating bowls, with a club area between them.
“It’s interesting that it’s not the student section that is now considered the loudest,” said longtime Hawkeyes ticket-holder Hoefer, whose seats are “around the goal line, halfway up on the east side, near that north end zone.”
Believe it or not, there was no mission to build a wall of sound.
“That was not a factor that the university gave us when we started designing it,” Hoefer said. “It sort of just came as a byproduct.
“Essentially, once we started trying to fit all the seats that they needed between what’s really a fairly narrow footprint between the end of the field and Evashevski Drive to the north, to get a club space in there and all the seats they needed.
“It was going to have to go much more vertical than the other parts of the stadium like the south end zone, which we did 10 years earlier. That had all sorts of ample space to be able to match the existing grandstands more.”
Nonetheless, an imposing end zone was a pleasing concept to the football program and its benefactors.
“In our early renderings,” said Hoefer, “Coach (Kirk) Ferentz noted that it had sort of the intimidating effect of just that tall grandstand looming over the field.”
The north end zone seating area “gets started with the first row,” Hoefer said. “It’s as close to the field as it safely could be. Then, the rake of that upper deck is designed so when everybody stands up, the people in the back row are able to see the back of the end zone.
“Just the geometry of that created how steep it is. Adding a glass wall at the midlevel reverberates any sound from that level and probably even the sound from the east and the west. It all gets reflected back. That whole structure really blocks the wind and keeps the sound in.”
Hoefer had to feel like Dr. Frankenstein watching in horror as his monster ran amok Saturday, no? No.
“That was fun to see that sort of come to fruition,” he said.
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