IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa’s $90 million renovation to Kinnick Stadium’s north end zone straddles the line between price and extravagance, athletics director Gary Barta said Friday afternoon.
“The first couple of versions that came out were over $100 million,” Barta said in a teleconference with reporters. “I made it clear we couldn’t afford that. So we just kept working backward until we reached that pinnacle of where the two paths crossed, where we had everything that we needed and we had a price that we felt we could manage and afford.
“I think we had a cool look that gave us everything that we needed and wanted.”
The state Board of Regents approved the renovation Thursday at its October meeting. Infrastructure enhancements begin in 2017. In 2018, club seating will be finished but general admission seating will be disrupted. The project will be completed in time for the 2019 season.
Project details include an upper deck, a lower deck, a premium suite level and a 17,000-foot indoor club. There will be 12 outdoor club boxes, 1,570 club seats and 712 chair backs. There are two elevators running to the suites and a walkway from a neighboring parking lot. Part of the new addition will hang over Evashevski Drive, the street which runs tight against the north end zone.
Other additions to the north end zone include double the number of women’s restrooms, a near-double of men’s restrooms and twice as many concession areas. The notoriously cramped section will have seating sizes increased by 42 percent.
Alterations forced Barta to trim Kinnick Stadium’s overall capacity from 70,585 to around 69,000. Based on 2015 NCAA attendance numbers, if Iowa sold out Kinnick at 69,000, it would rank 21st nationally. Barta has said multiple times his target attendance range is among the top 25 nationally.
“My goal going into it was to keep it above (70,000) … just for sentimental, emotional reasons,” Barta said. “That didn’t trump making sure that we achieved our No. 1 goal, and that was to get the best fan experience. In the end, we had to go under (70,000) to get everything what we wanted to get. I’m happy with it. I’m comfortable with it.”
According to the financing plan released to the state Board of Regents last week, Iowa athletics will purchase $100 million in bonds and face $6.3 million annually in debt service. Barta’s goals are to secure $25 million in private donations and generate at least $2 million in new revenues from the premium seating. The rest will come from athletics department funds, including a projected increase from $34.3 million to $43.6 million in Big Ten income in fiscal year 2018.
Iowa’s athletics department has been 100 percent self-sustaining since 2007 and does not receive state, university or student fees.
“In the end we got everything we wanted or needed in the project for a price that I felt comfortable we could put a finance plan together that we could afford,” Barta said.
Iowa will update Kinnick Stadium’s FieldTurf in time for the 2017 season. Barta said he hasn’t decided whether to paint a large Tiger-Hawk at midfield on the new surface.