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Wine: Carver-Hawkeye History Lesson

Iowa's upset of No. 6 Michigan State last Saturday night in Carver-Hawkeye Arena was one of many great moments in the Arena's first 25 years of existence.

Iowa's upset of No. 6 Michigan State last Saturday night in Carver-Hawkeye Arena was one of many great moments in the Arena's first 25 years of existence.

Jan. 13, 2008

IOWA CITY -- A brief history lesson is in order as we celebrate the silver anniversary of Carver-Hawkeye Arena and the impact it has had on the University of Iowa campus, its athletic programs and its fans.



Iowa's basketball and wrestling teams began competition at the turn of the 20th century in a building called The Armory on the east bank of the Iowa River. Iowa Field, where the football team played, was nearby.

Basketball and wrestling were not the spectator sports they are today -- not even close -- and the Armory's capacity of perhaps 3,000 could adequately accommodate the fans.

In the late 1920s, athletic director Paul Belding led a movement that took Hawkeye sports across the river to the developing west campus. First the Fieldhouse was opened in 1927, and two years later the first football game was played in what is now called Kinnick Stadium.

The Fieldhouse -- with a large armory on the west end -- was considered a magnificent structure for its day and was advertised to be the largest indoor athletic facility in the United States. Not only was it home to Iowa's basketball and wrestling teams, and also included an indoor track, a swimming pool and several hand-ball courts.

The multi-purpose building was a huge success and over the years served the University well.

When basketball became a popular spectator sport following World War II, fans flocked to the Fieldhouse to see some very good Iowa teams coached by Pops Harrison. Bleachers were added behind both baskets to accommodate capacity crowds, announced at more than 15,000.

In the mid-1950s, under Coach Bucky O'Connor, the Hawkeyes won consecutive Big Ten championships and made two NCAA Final Four appearances. With its steel balconies and terrible acoustics, the Fieldhouse provided a noisy and raucous home-court advantage for the Hawkeyes.

After O'Connor met an untimely death in an automobile accident in 1958, attendance gradually fell off until Ralph Miller took over as coach six years later. Miller's exciting style of play began packing the Fieldhouse again.

When his 1970 team swept through the Big Ten with a perfect record, averaging 103 points a game, interest in Iowa basketball and demand for season tickets were at an all-time high.





Carver-Hawkeye Arena was an instant hit with the fans and has been a great addition to the Iowa campus. Not only is it home to the men's and women's winter sports teams, it is also a wonderful venue for concerts, commencements and special events such as appearances by U.S. presidents.



When Lute Olson became the head coach in 1974 the Hawkeyes again became competitive in the Big Ten and season ticket sales surged. Like Miller, Olson campaigned for a new home for Iowa basketball. When his 1979 team earned a share of the Big Ten championship and his 1980 team made a serious run at the national championship, he gained a lot of support.

A new arena -- funded entirely by private contributions -- was approved by the board or regents, and construction was soon underway. Carver-Hawkeye Arena had a price tag of $18.4 million and was scheduled to open for the 1982-83 school year.

But construction was slowed due to weather, and the first event was held Jan. 3, 1983, when Iowa's wrestling team beat Oklahoma 35-7. The wrestlers, under Coach Dan Gable, were on a roll of nine straight NCAA championships, and their success and growing fan base were instrumental in getting the new sports arena approved and funded.

On Jan 5, the basketball team made its debut in the new building and lost to Michigan State 61-59. After the season Olson left for Arizona, where he is still the head coach.

Carver-Hawkeye Arena was an instant hit with the fans and has been a great addition to the Iowa campus. Not only is it home to the men's and women's winter sports teams, it is also a wonderful venue for concerts, commencements and special events such as appearances by U.S. presidents.

The arena has hosted NCAA and Big Ten championship events in wrestling, gymnastics and women's basketball. Big Ten sports writers and broadcasters voted it the best basketball facility in the conference. The American Institute of Architects gave it an award for design.

Over the past 25 years Carver-Hawkeye Arena has been a resounding success. Hats off to all the coaches and athletes -- plus all the fans -- who made it happen.


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