Iowa next stop in Big Ten tour


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Touring major sports stadiums is familiar territory for Drew Cieszynski.

After visiting all 30 major-league stadiums in 2006 and traveling to every NBA arena in 2007, Cieszynski’s next step was Big Ten football.

After going on a road trip through the Midwest with his brother after graduating college, the York, Pa., native said he can’t get enough of traveling to new places.

“It’s kind of like an addiction for me to do this stuff,” he said. “The No. 1 thing is all of the people I have met. To this day, I have lasting relationships with some of these people.”

After touring baseball and basketball stadiums alone, Cieszynski wanted to bring some friends along for his next venture.

Four coworkers agreed to go to as many stadiums as possible, including the Rose Bowl, but only one, Jeff Harris, is in for the entire tour.

“A lot of people we work with are all from different Big Ten schools and always talk about how much better their school is than someone else’s,” Harris said. “I just want to venture out and judge for myself because who knows the next time I’ll take a trip to Champaign?”

The group, whose members reside in Milwaukee, has visited Penn State, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, and Illinois. The next stop is Iowa City for this Saturday’s nationally televised game against Michigan.

Harris, who grew up in Des Moines, said the group talks to every school’s athletics department before visiting each town to find out availability of press passes or tickets, while talking to many news outlets and bloggers to get their names out to the public.

The attempts have paid off on a few occasions thus far, receiving free tickets when the group traveled to Evanston, Ill., to see Northwestern. They also received a free tour of Minnesota’s new TCF Bank Stadium — a luxury Cieszynski and Harris said has been the most memorable part of the journey to this point.

“We got to go everywhere. The field, press box, locker rooms, suites, even ESPN’s booth,” Harris said. “And the next day, we tailgated with the booster club and got to meet [Minnesota head basketball coach] Tubby Smith.”

The tour has been a great experience so far, he said, but he was not expecting the difficulties involved with creating a schedule and maintaining a budget.

“When you have four or five guys with different schedules, who want to see different games, it becomes quite a process,” he said. “We wanted to go to as many conference match-ups as possible to make it fair to judge the atmosphere of each, but that is obviously not possible.”

Cieszynski said one of the main reasons for wanting to bring friends along was to get them to understand the planning that goes behind this kind of venture.

“I’m constantly pushing these guys along, saying we have to book this and contact this person,” he said. “It’s almost like a second job to me. I maintain our blog, answer every e-mail we receive, and divvy expenses.”

The guys are keeping a blog chronicling their journey at www.thebig10tour.com. The blog consists of recaps of each stadium visit, profiles of each member, goals for the tour, best-ofs, and worst-ofs.

Even though it is barely midway through the season, Cieszynski said, he expects the weekend in Iowa City to be the most memorable, even though they have yet to purchase tickets.

“National TV, blackout game, two real Big Ten competitors,” Cieszynski said. “I’ve kind of fallen in love with Iowa since it beat Penn State two times in a row, and a lot of fans have already reached out, so I’m very excited.”

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