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, Iowa, native Duke Slater clearing a hole for Gordon Locke during a 1921 game against Notre Dame. Based on a photo taken by Iowa City photographer F.W. Kent, the image that stands 14-feet wide and 61⁄2-feet tall was created by Grand Rapids, Michigan, artist J Brett Grill.
Behind the likeness of Slater and Locke breaking free for yardage are images of two other Iowa legends, Lester Belding and Aubrey Devine, all part of the first of two consecutive teams coached by Howard Jones which finished the season 7-0.
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 Oct. 8, 1921, which ended a 20-game winning streak by the Fighting Irish.
Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta called the relief a fitting tribute to Slater, an All American 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.
The bronze relief 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 schedule Aug. 31 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.
One is a collection of outdoor loge boxes. 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.
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 coach Kirk Ferentz requested of the new space — the vertical nature of the facility created closer viewing opportunities.
The front row of seats on the club level is 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.
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 athletic department.
"To see this go from a vision three years ago to reality today, it's been quite a project,'' said Damian Simcox, assistant athletic director of facilities. "It's something we can take a lot of pride in.''— Quad-City Times