Iowa Hawkeyes

Iowa looking to upgrade its wrestling facility

A planned 37,000-square-foot complex would cost between $17- and $20-million

A new Iowa wrestling facility is being proposed and would cost between $17 and $20 million. (The Gazette)
A new Iowa wrestling facility is being proposed and would cost between $17 and $20 million. (The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa is planning a new 37,000-square-foot, two-level practice and operations facility for its No. 1-ranked wrestling program adjacent to Carver-Hawkeye Arena, expected to cost between $17 million and $20 million.

In a request before the Board of Regents to proceed with project planning — made public Tuesday — the UI Department of Athletics proposed a new structure with workout facilities, training areas, locker rooms and office space.

It will be located south of Carver, connected to the arena by tunnel, and will feature a Hall of Champions showcasing the program’s 23 NCAA team titles, 35 Big Ten Conference team titles, 84 NCAA individual championships and 335 All-America honors.

UI athletics gifts will cover the price of the project — with more than $9 million in commitments raised to date.

Those commitments helped fund a preliminary needs assessment and design plan for the facility, according to Tuesday’s announcement, which comes nearly three years after UI athletics director Gary Barta said his department would begin exploring possibilities for a new wrestling training center.

Barta made that announcement in 2017 in conjunction with a three-year contract extension for Hawkeye wrestling coach Tom Brands — taking him through 2022-23.

On Tuesday, Brands called the proposed project “an important step forward for the Iowa wrestling program.”

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“We put constant thought and evaluation into everything we do, and we do it with great energy to make sure we are operating at the highest level,” Brands said in a statement. “We are thankful that we are able to continue moving forward.”

The Hawkeye wrestling program has been training and competing in the 15,077-seat Carver-Hawkeye Arena since it opened in 1983 — sharing the arena with the university’s other indoor sports, like men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball, and gymnastics.

“This shared facility is at capacity, forcing each sport to compete for space and court time,” according to the university’s request to the board.

Although UI athletics built a Carver addition in 2011, it supports only basketball and volleyball.

The Hawkeye wrestling program’s current space includes training rooms and the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex, which features three mats, a locker room, sauna, weightlifting facilities and retractable bleachers.

In that the wrestling quarters are bordered by men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball, space is “limited, outdated and needs to be upgraded to assure continued success of the program,” according to board of regents documents.

“This project would expand the wrestling program’s square footage substantially and provide new space needed for wrestling conditioning, training, locker rooms and meetings.”

The Hawkeye wrestling program is ranked No. 1 in the nation, holding its place as a dynamo in the powerhouse Big Ten Conference — which boasts the six top NCAA Division I programs, including Penn State at No. 2, followed by Ohio State, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Minnesota.

All 10 of Iowa’s starting wrestlers are ranked in the Top 10 in the country, including seven in the top 5 and Spencer Lee at No. 1 at 125 pounds.

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The Hawkeyes’ next dual on Friday pits the Hawkeyes against Penn State, which has been on a tear since 2011 — winning the NCAA team championship from 2011 to 2014, breaking only in 2015 before starting a new team championship streak from 2016 to 2019.

The Iowa wrestling program captured nine straight NCAA titles from 1978 to 1986, and it has won 23 of the last 43.

As a preeminent force in the wrestling world, the Hawkeyes have hosted conference and national tournaments, Olympic trials and in April 2018 the United World Wrestling World Cup — an international dual featuring the world’s top eight wrestling teams.

The regent request for a new wrestling facility seeks permission to proceed next month — and an athletics department news release indicates budget development and architect selection will succeed board approval.

In a statement, Barta said this project exemplifies his department’s commitment to the legendary Hawkeye wrestling program and “continuing its momentum.”

“This facility will have a significant impact on our wrestling program and athletics department,” he said, noting fundraising will continue during the design process. “And we are confident others will join the campaign to help our wrestling program take this very important next step.”

Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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