Barta: Indoor football areas outdated

BY EMILY BUSSE | MARCH 31, 2010 7:30 AM

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The Hawkeyes have outgrown their indoor football facilities, which are now “bursting at the seams,” Athletics Director Gary Barta says.

The locker rooms, practice spaces, offices, and video-screening rooms have fallen behind their competitors, something he hopes will be remedied with “critical” renovations, upgrades, and expansions starting this year.

“We’re desperately undersized in terms of a lot of those spaces,” he said.

Barta presented an update on the plans at this month’s state Board of Regents meeting, promising to come before the regents again with cost projections and more concrete information.

In 2007, the Iowa athletics department laid out a large facilities overhaul, including renovations to Kinnick Stadium and Carver-Hawkeye Arena and the construction of the Beckwith Boathouse.

Potential plans include rebuilding over the current indoor Bubble facility, building west of the new recreation center, and expanding existing locations.

The Bubble was built in the late 1980s and is clearly outdated, Barta said.

“I jokingly say that the Bubble’s going to burst,” he said. “There’s no doubt we’re going to have to replace that in the near future.”

It is too early to speculate on what the price tag will be for the renovations, he said, but officials are working with architects to find possible locations for construction.

Although the athletics department is financially self-sufficient — relying on ticket sales, TV, radio, and fundraising — the project still requires the regents’ approval.

Regent President David Miles said the board has not yet decided when to take action on the proposal.

“I took it as simply him telling us that this is something he has identified as a need,” Miles said. “He’s going to go back and do his homework, and at some point, he’s expecting to come back and ask us for permission to proceed.”

Regent Robert Downer said that although the regents will wait for more information regarding costs, he has “no reason to question” that it will be adequately funded.

“I think it is sort of the final phase of improvements that are needed for football at this point,” Downer said.

One way Barta said officials were able to identify renovation needs was by comparison with other schools. After visiting six universities, including Penn State, Louisiana State, Michigan State, and Missouri, he said, officials brought their favorite ideas back to the UI with them.

The next time Barta comes before the board, Miles said, he expects to have important questions answered, including “how this fits into the overall mission of the regent institutions and of the university.”

Although coaches and athletes are dealing with outgrown video-screening rooms and crowded offices, Barta said, the facilities are still good and coaches have continued to prepare teams. It’s just time for a change, he said.

“Kirk [Ferentz] has done incredible things … and he’s been patient,” the AD said. “But clearly, we’re at the point where we’re doing more with less.”

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