Carver-Hawkeye renovations on schedule


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The construction workers buzzing around Carver-Hawkeye Arena have made quite a bit of progress since this summer.

The home of Hawkeye basketball, volleyball, and wrestling is about halfway through a $47 million facelift that includes renovations to the arena and the construction of a brand-new, glass-encased practice and office facility.

This addition, affectionately coined the “Boomerang” because of its distinctive swooping shape, will house two gymnasiums and an enormous new strength and conditioning center. It will also become the headquarters for most of Iowa’s athletics programs and Student Athletics Services.

Senior Associate Athletic Director Jane Meyer conducted a tour of the addition on Tuesday afternoon and said she’s been pleased with the progress.

“Right now, the Carver-Hawkeye Project is on time,” she said. “We look to be able to move back into this facility — into [both] the new and the renovated pieces — right around the first part of August of 2011.”

The broad scope of the project was born out of necessity. Carver-Hawkeye hadn’t had any major work done in its 27 years of existence, and the training facilities in particular were woefully insufficient for the Hawkeye program.

Iowa’s two basketball teams and volleyball squad had to compete for practice time on the arena court, and the strength and conditioning center was only large enough for half the soccer team to use at one time.

That’s all changing, though.

A practice gym on the third floor of the addition will hold two full-size basketball courts and three volleyball courts, and the area devoted to strength and conditioning will expand from 1,800 to 11,000 square feet.

First-year men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery said this aspect in particular will help with rebuilding a program that has struggled in recent years.

“When you look at our facility, and in particular the renovation, I think we can bring a recruit and his parents to our campus and say, ‘Look at our commitment as an institution,’ ” McCaffery said during his team’s media day on Oct. 14. “Very few facilities will be like ours as we move forward.”

Fans likely won’t notice most of the changes, though. While the glass Boomerang is hard to miss, and new electrical wiring will facilitate more ice cream machines in the concourse, Meyer said, most of the project has been conducted “behind the scenes.”

Instead, the hope is fans will create the change themselves by coming out to see teams that have improved because of the construction.

McCaffery has firsthand experience of how tough it can be to be a visitor in the arena. Both his 1985 Lehigh team and 2004 North Carolina-Greensboro squad were throttled in Carver-Hawkeye, and he said a goal is to recreate the atmosphere that has helped Iowa win 77 percent of its games in the facility.

Athletics Director Gary Barta agreed, telling hawkeyesports.com that the investment in “one of the landmark buildings on our campus” is vital for the teams that call it home.

“To say that our staff and coaches are excited or that our student-athletes are excited would be a tremendous understatement,” Barta said.

Although there’s a lot more to be done — the basketball practice gym still has a dirt floor, for example — Meyer echoed Barta’s enthusiasm.

“To have that drywall in place actually gives you the size of the spaces [in the Boomerang],” she said. “You sit here and say, ‘You know what — this is really going to work.’ ”

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