New facilities key to UI athletic recruitment

by Gigi Wood

UNIVERSITY OF IOWA – Very visible changes are being made to the facilities across the University of Iowa athletics campus.

One of the most notable is the $69 million Campus Recreation and Wellness Center set to open Aug. 2 that will house the UI’s swimming and diving teams. The teams practice at the Field House pool, which when it was built in 1927, was the largest in the world. The new pool will be the largest in the state and will improve the teams’ competitive edge.

Some might expect only the sports with blockbuster ticket sales, such as football, to receive such attention and resources. But UI Athletic Director Gary Barta said the $89 million renovation of Kinnick Stadium in 2006 was only one facet of an overall strategic plan for the athletic department.

“We have at the athletic department a strategic plan that includes academic, financial goals and aspirations for our teams and facilities are a part of our master plan,” he said.

Before Mr. Barta arrived in 2006, the UI completed new facilities for the soccer and field hockey teams. When he came to the UI, the school was completing Kinnick and the Hawkeye Recreation and Tennis Complex. Another major project is the $47 million renovation of Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

“We have more than 10 million square feet going into athletic infrastructure,” Mr. Barta said.

The rowing team recently benefited by the construction of the $7 million Beckwith Boathouse along the Iowa River. Gymnastics, volleyball, wrestling, golf and many other sports have or will receive new facilities or upgrades.

“What makes success is people, but you have to give them the facilities to be successful,” he said.

The addition of the Gerdin Athletic Learning Center is another important new facility that helps the UI meet its student-athlete mission, he said.

“If we were purely a business venture we wouldn’t be doing this,” Mr. Barta said. “If we were for-profit, we would cut the other 22 sports (without big ticket sales). But our mission is to compete and to graduate student athletes and provide the best opportunities possible to young people.”

The new $9 million pool at the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center is part of that mission and will play a lead role in attracting top student-athletes to the UI.

“There’s no doubt it has improved (recruiting) already, before the facility has even opened,” he said. “It allows us recruiting of the best in the country, now we have the facility to do that.”

When it opens, the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center will be 216,000 square feet, making it the 20th largest building on campus, according to Rod Lehnertz, director of design and construction for UI Facilities Management. The largest building, in terms of interior square footage, is the Pomerantz Family Pavilion at 738,298 square feet; No. 19 is the chemistry building at 233,654.

Because the planning process for the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center began with student surveys in 2000, the UI chose not to pursue LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certification for the building.

“While being completed after some of our early LEED projects, the first being the new Beckwith Boathouse, the recreation center was started and bid well ahead of those projects and before our institutional decision to make LEED certification a standard for new construction,” Mr. Lehnertz stated in an e-mail.

The building, however, includes natural day lighting and several features to maximize energy efficiency.