IOWA CITY — Functional and cool.
That was the prevailing sentiment from University of Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta on Friday when discussing the recently-announced $89.9 million north end zone renovation. On a conference call, Barta laid out how the athletic department got to this point with the well-received upgrades, as well as where the money for the project will come from.
The donor and UI athletics-funded proposal that was approved this week by the Iowa Board of Regents is one Barta believes achieves everything in terms of functionality and aesthetics, all while being at a price they can afford.
“Just about anything you can imagine, in terms of fan experience, is going to be improved,” Barta said. “We got everything we wanted and needed for a price that we could put a finance plan together that we could afford.
“I don’t think we had to sacrifice anything. I think we came up with a cool look that gave us everything we needed and wanted.”
Barta said the $89.9 million number came from what the university wanted to get accomplished, what the architects, engineers and construction companies told them via an estimate, and what the athletic department could afford. He said initial proposals for the upgrades were more than $100 million, which he added was not feasible.
Barta called the final number a “pinnacle of where the two paths crossed” in terms of amenities and cost.
He also reiterated what he said has long been a common misconception when work of this nature is announced or proposed, and that was where the money for the project was coming from. None of the final cost will be covered by taxes, student fees or the general university fund, he said.
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Barta said the athletic department still is in conversations to finalize donors, adding no names can be released officially yet for who those individuals are, but that there is a sizable contingent who have already stepped to the table with that intention. He added there’s one that is, right now, a verbal commitment that is “a significant amount of money” that they’re still working on finalizing.
“(The plan is) raise $25 million from donors, generate at least $2 million more per year in new, premium seat revenue that will help go against the bonds we’ll be selling, and then the rest from athletic department revenues — which could be additional fundraised dollars; it could be TV money,” Barta said. “It’s for sure going to be athletic department revenues.
“This is all self-funded, self-generated money from our fans through athletic department revenue alone.”
New premium seating with wider bench seats, wider aisles, 146 percent more bathrooms and a large new video board are the highlights of the project, which will reduce the overall capacity of Kinnick Stadium from 70,585 to around 69,000.
The dip below the 70,000 mark created a bit of existential strife for Barta, but what the project became eased that quickly. He said it became clear to achieve what they wanted, it would have to decrease.
“I try to make decisions with principles in mind and the No. 1 principle in this process was improving the fan experience,” Barta said. “My goal going in was to see if we could keep it above 70,000, just for sentimental, emotional reasons, but that didn’t trump making sure we achieved that No. 1 goal.
“I’m happy with it, I’m comfortable with it, and as I mentioned previously, we can still achieve the goal of being in the top 25 of attendance. I’m very comfortable with where we ended up.”
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Fan reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, Barta said, which was surprising only because there’s typically more of a mix of positive and negative. He said the reactions have been “99 percent positive and 1 percent negative,” which is “unusually high” on the positive side.
One thing fans ask about often involved the field turf, which also will be replaced following this season and be fully installed before next year. It’s the minor — $1 million or less, Barta estimated — addition to the project, but will be the first installation.
The question most asked about the turf still didn’t have an answer definitively yet, though.
“I don’t have exactly when it’s going to happen, but it will be ready for fall for sure,” Barta said. “We haven’t decided yet (on a Tigerhawk at midfield).”
Fans can find more information via videos and photos at kinnickedge.org.