116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — You will never see a Hawkeye sitting in a garbage can full of ice for his cold tub recovery. Iowa now has a pool for that.
That pool sees about half to three-quarters of the team after practice. You will probably still see a Hawkeye hungry, but it won't be for lack of a refueling station. You might see a Hawkeye studying practice video on his iPad. Know that digital video was available to him minutes after practice.
Wait, you might not see a Hawkeye around much anymore, besides, you know, games. That was part of the point of the Stew and LeNore Hansen Football Performance Center. The $55 million facility where the Iowa football team now lives is a self-contained football training ground.
Head coach Kirk Ferentz called the facility one of the best in college football. Tight ends coach LeVar Woods, a former NFL linebacker for seven seasons, said Iowa's facility beats anything he's seen in the NFL (which doesn't have to recruit, mind you).
This will be Iowa's first full season in the facility. The benefits reveal themselves everyday, Ferentz said.
'The efficiency we've been allowed to operate under is outstanding,' Ferentz said. 'In 1981 (when Ferentz was O-line coach under Hayden Fry), you used to have to drive into the Fieldhouse and then come over here to practice, drive somewhere else to go eat, drive somewhere else to meet and then back to the office and then back here. You spent half the day in a car.'
Last year, the team used to eat in at least three different places (Hillcrest, the Marriott during camp and then Kinnick Stadium press box). Now, all meals are served in the front room of the new facility, bathed in natural light, another huge departure from the Jacobson Building, which was cramped and 'intimate' in a cramped way.
Strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle kind of chuckled about the days (just last year) when he had players bouncing medicine balls off the walls in the basement of the Jacobson Athletic Building, where it leaked and sometimes there was water, but hey, it worked and it was awesome because that's what they had.
Iowa's new weightroom is 23,000 square feet. Team managers can drive a John Deere Gator through the room to stage weight stations. Every bar is fitted with a Tendo Unit, which measures the speed with which the bar is raised. Iowa got Power Lift and Keiser — the Coca-Cola and Pepsi of the strength industry — to work together on fitting weight stations.
Iowa's weight facility now also includes a lockerroom for former Hawkeyes now in the NFL. It's more than you might think. During a February workout session, there were 19 former Hawkeyes working out in the building.
'You know who really benefits from that, our players,' Doyle said. 'When they walk in the door and there's (Christian) Kirksey, (Anthony) Hitchens and Micah Hyde, they were all back this winter. Then, there's (Marshal) Yanda and (Brandon) Scherff is training and (Matt) Tobin, James Ferentz. These guys are in here training. You can't put a price tag on that. That is awesome for our players.'
The weightroom also has a 'smoothie bar,' but that's selling it short. Remember, last year the NCAA deregulated food to help improve the health and wellness of athletes. This timed nicely with Iowa's new facility. And so 'smoothie bar' also means sandwiches, snacks galore and really a whole day's worth of food. Doyle said players can consume up to 2,000 during workouts.
Hy-Vee delivers whole foods (spinach, fruits, vegetables) 5 a.m. every day. There are 120 sandwiches a day.
Playlist: Football Facility Interviews
The ideation for this project was in the neighborhood of six years, according to director of football operations Paul Federici. The Iowa staff visited 12 facilities, including the New England Patriots.
From the cold tubs (head football trainer Russ Haynes said half to three-quarters of the team hits these as part of recovery and he recommends it) to the lockerrooms (which are more like dressing rooms because sweaty gear gets stored in a heated drying room that kills bacteria and leaves gear to dry) to the key card and hand scans that allow players into the building and then to move freely throughout (including the 100,000 square foot indoor football facility, which is attached to the weightroom with the players classrooms just upstairs), efficiency was the goal.
'Our objectives were simple,' Ferentz said. 'We wanted a building that was going to be first class, but not opulent. . . . We wanted this place to be functional, and it's functional in every turn.'
The players and history of the Iowa program is celebrated (bowl wall, NFL wall, classrooms with photo collages of all-Americans at those positions). Those graphic components (done by 49 Degrees, a company out of Ohio) hit you.
For every hour players spend on the practice field, they spend an hour and a half in the classrooms, offensive line coach Brian Ferentz said. Those classrooms overlook the weightroom facility, which isn't exactly a subliminal message. What Iowa football does and is comes from the weightroom, where players workout all year.
After conducting their first winter workouts in the new space, the average team weight went from 231 to 236.8, a factlet that had Doyle smiling.
Yes, there's a players lounge, too, with pool tables, ping-pong and video games.
'What we wanted to do with the whole building was make a structure where our players didn't want to go home,' Brian Ferentz said. 'The idea is if was can get them to spend more time in here, even if it's just watching TV or playing X Box or whatever they do, maybe we can get some residual on that. While they're here, maybe they'll get a treatment, maybe they'll watch some tape. The idea is let's get them over here and then work backward from there.'
The Hawkeyes can do everything football, including eat and heal and study, in the Hansen Center except punt.
The roof of the indoor facility is 65 feet, which works for field goals and kickoffs. It would've had to stretch to 85 or 90 feet for punts, Federici said. That would've added a ton to the total cost.
There's a workaround. The team uses a Jugs Machine to launch punts just below the 65 feet. The punt coverage unit is timed and it works out OK.
Iowa football had to leave punting on the cutting room floor, so there's that. But the walls of the new place have a rubber grommeting system that attaches to a half channel and, as sound hits the sheet rock and starts to go through it, it hits the rubber, densifies and doesn't allow transmission back to the studs in the wall and leak sound into the next room over.
For a refueling station in the old place, Doyle had a plug-in cooler and a shelf from Wal-Mart. The stakes have been raised.
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