IOWA CITY, Iowa — Two hours before the Outback Bowl, Iowa’s athletics department dropped an early but surprising note about 2017 season football tickets.
The Hawkeyes announced they wouldn’t raise ticket prices for the upcoming season. The timing was unusual because department officials didn’t wait until the game’s outcome, lick their collective fingers, and stick them in the air to gauge which way the Tampa air was blowing.
Often this announcement takes place about a month after a bowl game, when knee-jerk reactions have stopped kicking. That way, if the Hawkeyes lost — which they did, 30-3 to Florida — they could announce ticket prices without ducking their faces with their hands out. Or, if they had won, they could avoid a pompous appearance.
But their notice took place two hours before kickoff, when optimism was high for both the game and the future. Strangely, there was no ulterior motivate associated with the move. It wasn’t because Iowa planned to reseat the stadium like in 2014. Or it wasn’t in response to a 17 percent drop in ticket sales in 2015. It wasn’t even the tiered pricing structure of 2016 that rewarded fans who purchased season tickets in 2015.
“We just made the decision that the fans have been great sticking with us and we’ll hold the prices next year,” Barta said. “When you take a look at our home schedule next year, we have Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State, a really nice lineup. The fans have been responding the last couple of years in filling Kinnick back up, so we’ll just try to enhance the experience.”
Part of the early renewal process is to allow fans to reshuffle their seats earlier, too. Those who buy tickets by March 31 can participate in the mid-spring seat upgrade. Previously, the buying process didn’t start until April.
The ticket news came only a day after the department announced a $5 million leadership gift from Iowa City’s Pacha family for the $90 million north end zone project. The club area will be named the Ted Pacha Family Club.
“They’re a family that literally for the last 40-45 years, they’re season-ticket holders for everything,” Barta said. “He’s the chairman of the national I-Club, the Johnson County I-Club. So they’re just one of those families that just love the Hawks. In addition to contributing a lot over the years, this commitment gives that north end zone project a lot of momentum.”
The project begins this year with infrastructure alterations. In 2018, the north end zone renovations begin in earnest. It will include a new upper and lower bowl structure with 8,516 general admission seats, 1,570 outdoor club seats and 148 loge and premium spaces. Some of the seating will be disrupted in 2018.
The 17,000-foot indoor Ted Pacha Family Club is connected with two elevators running to the suites and a walkway from a parking lot. Part of the club hangs over Evashevski Drive, a street which runs snugly against the north end zone. Iowa hopes to secure $25 million in private funds and generate at least $2 million annually in new revenue. Annual debt service is around $6.3 million.
The one cosmetic change for Iowa this year is new FieldTurf. The current rug was installed before the 2009 season after Kinnick Stadium’s grass field was ruined by flooding and drainage issues.
For many fans, the only request for the new surface is a painted black-and-gold Tiger-Hawk on the 50-yard line, to which Barta remains non-committal.
“We get asked that a lot,” Barta said. “The honest answer is this season we absolutely have not focused on it. Once the season ends, our plan is to install the turf this summer and maybe we’ll keep it a secret until the end. Eventually we’ll have to let the cat out of the bag.
“I actually can go either way. I think the way it looks right now is phenomenal with the black-and-gold end zones. If we end up putting a Tiger-Hawk on the 50, it’ll look great there, too. But we really haven’t decided yet.”