IOWA CITY — It was totally fitting that thunder rumbled in full throat here Tuesday afternoon as media mopes toured Kinnick Stadium’s renovation-in-progress.
As cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs as many have gotten about Iowa’s Tigerhawk logo getting painted on the University of Iowa’s water tower next door to the 89-year-old stadium, it may pale compared to how gonzo they get for the changes inside the old brick house.
The renovations to the north end zone won’t be completed until next season approaches, but the important part is done. The north end is enclosed, and taller.
You know what that means, the Hawkeyes know what that mean, and their opponents will really know what that means starting Saturday when Northern Illinois helps the Hawkeyes christen the new features. It will be loud.
Check that. It will be louder. It already was noisy enough to rank high on many national lists as one of the best college football in-game atmospheres. Now it will be a wall of sound.
Dense. Layered. Reverberant.
OK, it will be those things. But here’s what will be noticed more: It will be louder. It will be 11 on the dial that only goes up to 10. This is Hawkeye Spinal Tap.
“The thing I’m looking forward to the most is the sound difference in this (north) end zone,” UI assistant athletics director/facilities Damian Simcox said Tuesday. He won’t be the only person headed to the stadium Saturday who feels that way. Add Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz.
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“It’s really awesome on the field to see it, and it was good in April,” Ferentz said, “but it’s like way better now.
“Probably the neatest moment a week ago Saturday, we were watching our (Kids Day) scrimmage tape ... I can’t tell you why, but seeing it on video was like, wow, that looks really ... it’s imposing.
“I can’t wait to see the fans in it. Hopefully we’re going to make them be loud and not sit on their hands. That’s a challenge for us.”
There will be no hand-sitting. Most of those in attendance didn’t shell out the cash to be there to let the wall of sound be wasted by the sounds of silence.
This renovation is a $90 million project, a decade or so after an $89 million renovation here that included luxury suites and south end zone changes. Sandwiching the two stadium upgrades was the creation of the football program’s $55 million home.
You almost get the feeling college football is kind of big around here and in America.
The “Kinnick Edge” is what the UI calls this project. You can’t move the stadium or build a new one — well, you could do the latter if you wanted to start one of the worst riots in UI history — so you keep sprucing up the old homestead to keep up with everybody else doing likewise.
The question isn’t who in the Big Ten has gotten a stadium face-lift, is getting a stadium face-lift, or will get a stadium face-lift. It’s who hasn’t, and that’s a mighty short list.
So, how will all this racket affect the Hawkeyes?
“You want to stay focused on the task at hand,” Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley said Tuesday, “but obviously you want to feed on the energy as well. The electricity in the stadium is awesome.”
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“In a lot of games,” said Hawkeye defensive tackle Sam Brincks, “as soon as you walk out of the tunnel when you’re swarming you notice everyone and everything going on. And then as soon as the first whistle is blown, you’ve got to focus on what you’re trying to do.”
But Brincks, who is making his first college start Saturday, acknowledged this:
“Every team that comes in here, I guess, is going to have to deal with it.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, The Weather Channel said there was a 40 percent chance of thunderstorms here Saturday morning. Then at the 2:40 p.m. kickoff? The real thunder rolls.
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