The University of Iowa Athletics Department has been playing catch-up in the facilities arms race for more than a decade.
But with a new practice facility now in use as part of a $47 million improvement to Carver-Hawkeye Arena, UI officials are proud to say they’ve narrowed the gap.
“This project was long overdue,” UI Senior Associate Athletics Director Jane Meyer said Thursday morning while hosting a tour of the new facility to members of the media. “And to be quite honest, the student-athletes are extremely excited, to see the women’s basketball players go, ‘Wow, it’s ours.’
“And really we did this for the student-athletes, and secondly our coaches, for them to be able to perform their job, which is to have the facilities to recruit and then to actually teach.”
The lack of practice space and practice time has long been an issue at Iowa because the men’s and women’s basketball teams and the Iowa volleyball team have had to share the only court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Those days are over.
The Iowa women’s basketball team practiced Thursday in the new facility in preparation for its trip to Europe later this month .
Directly below the new practice facility is a new 11,000 square foot strength and conditioning area.
Meyer praised the new strength and conditioning area for its size and for how well it was built. She pointed out to reporters that you couldn’t hear the Iowa women’s basketball team practicing directly above where they were standing.
“If you think about it, they’re practicing up there and you can’t hear them because that concrete is 16 to 18 inches thick,” Meyer said.
The area surrounding the practice facility has four levels and an open foyer that can be used as a gathering place for student-athletes.
The main entrance to Carver-Hawkeye Arena is now on the fourth level at the northwest corner. There was no main entrance to the arena under the previous setup.
The lobby in the main entrance has a large tiger hawk logo on the floor and a video wall that provides video art for the facility.
“It will also be multi-purpose, meaning on a football Saturday if we have four different sports teams that want to come and they have recruits in the building, we can divide this wall up into four different teams and have highlights of them showing,” Meyer said of the video wall.
The ticket office also is on the fourth level, along with the administration suites, which includes the office for the director of athletics.
Level three has offices for head coaches and assistant coaches and offices for external affairs, which includes the marketing department and the sports information department.
Level two is shared by the men’s and women’s basketball programs, the volleyball program and the wrestling program.
Level one has all the new locker rooms, the new strength and conditioning area and a lower club seating area.
“One of the things with this project that we needed to make sure of is that it made it easier for our coaches to do their jobs,” Meyer said. “That was a very important purpose of this project.”
The only teams that don’t have offices in the new facility are football, which has its own complex, rowing and the men’s and women’s swimming teams.
Meyer said UI officials wanted to emphasize Iowa’s school colors of black and gold throughout the new facility as a way to promote school spirit.
“The other thing about Carver that we did not have is you didn’t see black and gold in the building,” Meyer said. “We’ve, obviously, incorporated our school colors and our logos in the new facility, which is important, obviously, as you’re trying to sell it for both student-athletes and donors.”
The new facility also features several conference rooms, each equipped with at least one large video screen.
“One of the things we needed to enhance was our meeting space,” Meyer said. “And so I think we’ve done that with a number of conference meeting rooms.”
UI staff members recently moved back to Carver-Hawkeye Arena after spending the past eight months working out of the Kinnick Stadium press box.
However, there still is work to be done as evidenced by the Iowa sports medicine department being housed in the Big Ten Conference room on the third floor of Carver-Hawkeye Arena until the end of the fall semester.
“There are just different parts of the building that we had to stagger in order to meet the needs of student-athletes,” Meyer said. “They’d love to be done, but they’re not.
“So we’ve had to adjust on the fly knowing that some of our spaces weren’t going to be done. But we still needed to meet the needs of our-student-athletes.”
Construction of the men’s basketball locker room also is ongoing but should be finished by the end of August, Meyer said.
Meyer said 60 percent of the project consists of new space and new structure, whereas the other 40 percent was renovated.
She also said that fundraising would pay for $22 million of the project.