Calling the Kinnick Stadium drainage system “obsolete,” the University of Iowa athletics department wants to spend $2 million to replace drainage and add synthetic turf for the 2009 football season.
The UI submitted its proposal to the Iowa Board of Regents on Thursday. The cost for the project is just more than $2 million and would be paid by gifts and profits generated by the athletics department. The proposal will be up for approval at the Regents meeting next week in Ankeny.
The plan, according to UI athletics director Gary Barta, is to get the approval and have the drainage and field in for next season. This would wipe out Iowa’s spring game, he said Thursday night. Iowa would consider moving the spring open practice, but Barta said that wouldn’t be likely. The school does hope that the field will be ready for its annual “Kids Day,” an open scrimmage near the end of fall practice that usually falls on the second Saturday in August.
This move was pushed by the drainage failures Iowa has had the last two seasons, Barta said, not by the move to synthetic turf. Kinnick’s drainage system is more than 20 years old. The athletics department brought in engineers to study the problem. The conclusion was that it needed to be replaced.
“It reached a level where it simply has to be addressed,” Barta said. “When we were at that Iowa State game (last fall), we were scrambling.”
The storm water drainage systems in the upper portions of Kinnick’s east and west grandstands are also in need of repair.
Kinnick has had a grass field since 1986. Before that, the stadium had artificial turf from 1972 to 1988.
Barta said the discussion on playing surface has been exhaustive. Coach Kirk Ferentz has stated a preference for grass, but he’s never been a synthetic turf hater. Iowa has had FieldTurf in the Kenyon Practice facility and its indoor practice facility for a few years.
“Kirk has been involved in the decision from day 1, and he’s fully supportive of where we’re headed,” Barta said. “It (synthetic turf) gives you greater flexibiilty, and because it peforms so well and is so durable, it just makes sense.”
Ferentz told Hawkeyesports.com, “We’ve have excellent feedback from our student-athletes about the synthetic surfaces we practice on each day here on campus and when we’ve played games on artificial surfaces away from Kinnick. Today’s synthetic surfaces are certainly better than what we had in Kinnick previously.”
Iowa would become the seventh Big Ten school with an artificial surface for football. Penn State, Purdue, Northwestern and Michigan State are the holdouts with natural surfaces.
The UI estimates that the¬†installation of synthetic turf will save $80,000 annually in costs for field maintenence. The synthetic surface would be estimated to¬†have a useful life of eight years.