The installation of a synthetic playing surface at historic Kinnick Stadium would mean a savings of at least $80,000 in annual maintenance.
Jan. 29, 2009 Updated Feb. 3, 2009
IOWA CITY, Iowa - The University of Iowa's historic Kinnick Stadium will join the ranks of Big Ten Conference football facilities featuring synthetic turf. The Board of Regents, State of Iowa, today approved the request of the UI to repair the drainage system beneath the current playing surface of the home of the Hawkeyes.
The UI indicates in documents provided to the Board that the drainage system for the playing surface installed at Kinnick prior to the 1989 season is not operating properly, needs repair and will need to be replaced. The documents also note that the storm water drainage systems that serve the upper portions of the facilities' east and west grandstands also are in need of repair.
The UI estimates the total cost to replace the drainage system and install a new playing surface to be a slightly more than $2 million. The UI Athletics Department will be responsible for 100 percent of the expense. The documents provided to the Regents indicated the installation of a synthetic playing surface will reduce the annual cost of field maintenance by approximately $80,000 annually and that the synthetic surface - like most natural grass surfaces - has a useful life of approximately eight years.
"Our staff has been looking at alternatives and options the past couple years as the drainage in Kinnick has grown progressively worse. It reached a point of critical concern this year prior to our game against Iowa State. We brought in engineers to conduct additional studies and realized our only option is to replace the drainage system that is now 20 years old," said Gary Barta, the UI's director of athletics.
The current playing field - Prescription Athletic Turf installed during the 2005 season - would be removed during the repair or replacement of the drainage system. Kinnick has featured a grass playing surface since the 1989 season. It had an artificial surface from 1972 through 1988.
Barta said the discussion about playing surface has been an exhaustive one that included consideration of the pros and cons of each option and input from everyone from current student-athletes at the UI and coaching staff, to the staff responsible for maintaining the UI's playing fields and award-winning Finkbine Golf Course.
"I'm confident this is the right direction. Today's synthetic surfaces have come so far since the old carpet turfs. They are student-athlete friendly, they have the look, feel, and performance of real grass, and, they are durable through all types of weather," Barta said, noting that the number of synthetic surfaces being installed in collegiate and professional facilities increases annually.
"We've had excellent feedback from our student-athletes about the synthetic surfaces we practice on each day here on campus, and when we've played a game on an artificial surface away from Kinnick. Today's synthetic surfaces are certainly better than what we had in Kinnick previously," said Kirk Ferentz, Iowa's head football coach.
"We've had excellent feedback from our student-athletes about the synthetic surfaces we practice on each day here on campus, and when we've played a game on an artificial surface away from Kinnick. Today's synthetic surfaces are certainly better than what we had in Kinnick previously."
The UI will become the seventh Big Ten institution to have an artificial surface in its football facility. That list includes Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio State, Indiana and the new stadium under construction on University of Minnesota campus. The Iowa football team currently practices on a synthetic surface when it is outdoors at the Kenyon Practice Facility and when inside "The Bubble," the UI's indoor practice facility.
The project eliminates the opportunity for an open-to-the-public scrimmage of the 2009 Iowa Hawkeyes this spring. It is anticipated, however, that the project's schedule would allow for the staging of the annual "Kids Day at Kinnick" event traditionally held the second Saturday of August.
Iowa opens its 2009 season against intrastate rival Northern Iowa on Sept. 5. That contest is the first of seven home games for the Hawkeyes.