Posted by: marcmwm | January 29, 2009

The fake stuff is coming to Kinnick

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, “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.



  1. What you said about the basketball program not bringing in bucks on the basketball blog alarms me a bit … with the economy as is, they better not try gouging the football season-ticket holders by upping the fee it costs to sit in the choicer sections at Kinnick.

  2. I think that question gets answered very soon.

  3. The timing could be better with the economy being like it is, but this was long overdue. That ISU game was a mess; who knows how many yards Greene would have had if he hadn’t slipped every time he tried to make a cut.

  4. This is a very bad move. This team’s strength is, and will continue to be a power running game and a solid defense that relies on being in position rather than being super-fast. Good footing primarily helps the teams with spread offenses, which are only becoming more prevalent in the Big 10. Like Penn State last season, these teams should dread coming to Kinnick Stadium in October/November and not be handed an extra advantage. If they do this, get ready to watch the scoreboard light up like its a Big12 game.

  5. The switch to grass was for player safety, as the old synthetic surfaces weren’t very good. The turf at Kinnick was like sliding on rough asphalt in the early 1980s and they still played on it. The new turf is a lot better safety-wise and it doesn’t get muddy, so the players can still play.

  6. Good points, both sides.

    Remember in 2004, when Iowa lost, what, four or five RBs to torn ACLs? I had the theory that the uneven surface at Kinnick helped cause those injuries. I brought that up to Feretnz. He quickly pointed out that the ACLs they had after that happened on FieldTurf surfaces. Conclusion, the ACLs are simply fate.

    I love football on grass, but the players I’ve talked to prefer the fake stuff. It lets them play.

    Helps the spread? Maybe, but what a FieldTurf field might give a spread might be traded away with nasty Novembers in the Big Ten. Now that the Gophs are out of the Dome, weather will be a factor every week in the Big Ten. Everyone remember 2004, Iowa at Illinois? It was a wind tunnel. This year, the entire Big Ten region was touched by the big rains that swept through.

    That’s the Big Ten that I love.

  7. […] plan to rip out their grass field The fake stuff is coming to Kinnick On Iowa […]

  8. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

    My only comment is, GB says the UI will SAVE $80K and YEAR replacing the God Sod and the life of the Mod Sod ($2m) is 8 years …

    Maybe GB ought to run numbers again.

    Is he saying that it costs $320,000.00 a year to maintain the playing surface at Kinnick today?

    No way!

    Even in government work there is absolutely no way field maintaince is 320 large a year.

    Maybe GB getting FT FREE? Being how Kinnick is the mecca of college football and all?

    What am I missing?

    Manditory contribution + tickets = high enough already for FB without the addition of carrying BB and a new practice facilty + CHA redo + FT.

    GB the goose does lays golden eggs … but they are not unlimited.

  9. Third, I’m buying it. I saw first-hand what the field was like for ISU. Look at your shower drain, that’s what Kinnick had. And who knows how clogged the underground system was. Plus, the new south end zone is a solid mountain of concrete. All the rain that fell on that drained onto the field.

    It was bad.

    Also, basketball renovations are desperately needed, IMO.

    I know I’m sounding like a shill here, but you’re talking competitive advantage with basketball facilities. Iowa has lost that on the league.

  10. I would never imply that a respected reporter was being a ‘shill’ for GB.

    Nor do I question the need for facilities that allow the UI to compete within the B10. (Remember, Michigan and OSU’s athletic budgets are nearly as large as the budget for the city of Cedar Rapids.)

    But. The question remains.

    How is GB able to say that there will be a savings of $80K a year by installing Field Turf?

    My information comes from the Gazette and I didn’t see where someone ‘gave’ the UI $2m for this proposed project. So. With a lifetime of 8 years that means FT will cost, over it’s 8 year life, $250.000.00 per year. Was the UI spending $320.000.00 to maintain the current field? That would be an $80k savings per year. I hope not!

    There are thousands of Agricultural Business people here in Iowa that could most likely tell the UI how to deal with plugged up drainage tiles! As for a plugged up drain (like in a shower) … don’t hire the guy I did! It would cost MILLIONS to fix Kinnick!)

    GB just needs to be open and up front about the cost and/or make the case that FT is required for the Hawkeyes to be competitive.

    As one who has sat in Kinnick since RN, I remember FXL saying we needed AstroTurf to be competitive. And Later on JHF saying that we needed God Sod so we could counteract our opponents speed. We all nodded our heads and said hell yes! Get me that AT or GS. We need it now!

    I expect no less from GB. Just don’t tell me, with the fact so far revealed in the Gazette, that we’ll save a dime.

  11. I’m guessing he was thinking the $80,000 in man hours and equipment that the UI spends each year in maintaining the field. That price tag sounds reasonable. You’re right, though. The $320,000, which extrapolated out of the cost for synthetic, that seems out of whack.

    I also think the south end zone factors in here. That solid wall of bleachers drains right to the field. I would think the synthetic could, perhaps, better handle it. I’m basing this off the Iowa State game. That end of the field was a disaster.

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