The board that governs the three state-supported universities gave approval today for a project of just over two-million dollars to replace the natural grass turf at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City with synthetic turf. University of Iowa athletic director, Gary Barta, answered questions from the Board of Regents about the need for the project in a time when budgets are being cut.
Barta says the drainage system in the stadium was installed in 1989, and engineers told them it did not need to be replaced during the 2005 stadium renovation. But Barta says the system began given them problems in 2006 and things got worse during the heavy rains and flooding this last year.
Barta says the drainage problem became progressively worse and game to a crescendo prior to the Iowa State game when there was a great deal of rain and they had to work all night to keep the field playable. Barta says they re-examined the problem after getting through the game.
He says they brought the engineers back in and asked for more short-term fixes to avoid spending a large amount of money, but they said there are no short-term steps remaining.
Barta says the university has to replace the drainage system or face the possibility that it could lead to losing much more money without the investment. Barta says they have no other options and face the possibility of a flooded field with more heavy rain. "Imagine, playing Michigan in front of 70,000 people on A.B.C. national television and having to cancel game, the amount of repercussions financially and public relations, we just couldn’t face that," Barta says.
Barta says they decided to go with the synthetic surface, as it would cost $400 to $500,000 more up front, but would last longer and be cheaper to maintain. He says the synthetic turf lifespan is guaranteed for eight years and is likely to last longer than that, which would beat the lifespan of grass. Barta was asked about the money for the field and says it will not be state money.
Barta says he would love to not have to replace the field as the athletic department is also facing budget cuts, but Barta says he "strongly believes that we don’t have an option" when it comes to making the improvements.
Barta says the synthetic turf will save the university $80,000 in maintenance costs each year — allowing them to recover the higher initial cost of installing the field. He says the studies are inconclusive as to whether the new system would prevent more injuries. The project will cost $2-million-25,000.
Iowa opens the 2009 season September 5th against UNI.