IOWA CITY – Surrounded by all of the trappings you would expect in an $89 million project – spectacular backlit graphics, spacious surroundings and a comfortable vantage point to watch games – Iowa’s rebuilt north end zone grandstand at Kinnick Stadium pays homage to the past.
Street level on the outside of the facility is a bronze relief depicting helmetless Clinton native Duke Slater clearing a hole for Gordon Locke during a 1921 Hawkeye game against Notre Dame.
Based on a photo taken by legendary Iowa City photographer F.W. Kent, the image that stands 14-feet wide and 6.5-feet tall was created by Grand Rapids, Michigan artist J Brett Grill and was manufactured by a foundry in Kansas City.
Behind the likeness of Slater and Locke breaking free for yardage are images of two additional Iowa legends, Lester Belding and Aubrey Devine, all part of the first of two consecutive teams coached by Howard Jones which finished the season with 7-0 records.
In the depicted play, Slater blocked multiple Notre Dame defenders and created a hole for Locke to score the only Iowa touchdown in the 10-7 win on Oct. 8, 1921 which ended a 20-game win streak by the Fighting Irish.
Iowa director of athletics Gary Barta called relief a fitting tribute to Slater, an all-American on the field for the Hawkeyes and the first African-American elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in its inaugural class in 1951.
“We wanted to do something to pay tribute to one of the greatest Hawkeyes of all-time and much like the (Nile) Kinnick statue on the other end of the stadium, this is a great way to do that,’’ Barta said.
Nearby security cameras will keep watch on the bronze relief that sits along Evashevski Drive and is embedded into the north end zone wall, all part of a project that will be complete before Iowa kicks off its 2019 schedule on Aug. 31 with a 6:30 p.m. game against Miami (Ohio).
While fans had a chance to sit in an uncompleted grandstand area with portable toilets and concession stands a year ago, they will enjoy a much more comfortable experience on each of the new structure’s three levels this season.
Now completed are 152 facilities in restrooms, up from 67 in the one-level grandstand the new facility replaced, and 38 points of sales in concession stands, up from 20 in the old facility.
Between general admission grandstand areas on the bottom and top levels sits two new areas of seating offerings.
One is a collection of outdoor loge boxes, named the Ironmen boxes in honor of the school’s most legendary football team.
Above it sits a more exclusive club area, an enclosed 17,500-square foot area which has a spacious concourse lined with large backlit photos of Hawkeye game-day experiences.
There are images of Herky, victory celebrations and one of Iowa defensive back Brett Greenwood walking onto the field accompanied by Pat Angerer and Iowa strength and conditioning coordinator Chris Doyle at the 2015 game against Pitt when the all-Big Ten defensive back from Pleasant Valley served as an honorary captain.
The area includes private restrooms, high-definition televisions, a private entrance from a nearby skywalk and a commons area that will be marketed to host business meetings and other gatherings when the Hawkeyes aren’t hosting a football game.
“The loge seating and the club area give us different options to market to fans than we’ve had before,’’ said Matt Henderson, an Iowa senior associate athletics director for revenue and external relations.
Because of the proximity of a street on the north side of the stadium, the new construction created more vertical space.
In addition to creating a louder environment inside the stadium, about the only thing Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz requested of the new space, the vertical nature of the facility created closer viewing opportunities.
“Some of our former players found last season they really liked the perspective from the north end zone because it was a lot like watching the tapes they watched as they played,’’ Henderson said. “It really allows you to see plays as they develop and things open up.’’
They also provide some of the closest vantage points of premium seats in the facility.
The front row of seats on the club level are nearly 50 yards closer to midfield than the closest premium suites located on the lowest level of the press box which sits on top of the stadium’s west side.
“There is a feeling like you are right on top of the action,’’ said Kevin Collins, an associate vice president and assistant athletics director for athletics development at Iowa.
Only a few minor details need to be completed before fans fill the area on the final day of August, marking the completion of a project that involved no use of tax dollars.
It was funded entirely through the sale of the area’s premium seats, donations and reserves from Iowa’s self-supporting athletics department.
“To see this go from a vision three years ago to reality today, it’s been quite a project,’’ said Damian Simcox, Iowa assistant athletics director of facilities. “It’s something we can take a lot of pride in.’’