IOWA CITY — The end zones are black. The hash marks are cut. The surface is light and shaggy.
Kinnick Stadium’s latest makeover was unveiled Friday with plush new FieldTurf, a synthetic fiber that appears and feels like grass.
Iowa now is the seventh Big Ten school to install FieldTurf as its football playing surface. Iowa’s football program already had two practice fields with a similar version of FieldTurf.
The shift to FieldTurf ended two decades of a grass field at Kinnick Stadium, which became a hot button topic among Iowa football fans. Annual maintenance cost savings were one factor in switching to FieldTurf, Iowa senior associate athletics director Jane Meyer said Friday.
“We looked at putting in real grass again,” she said. “We looked at putting in the type of infill surface that we did. And we weighed the options in regards to maintenance and with regards to how long a grass turf field would last. At that point we just sort of presented those options and said, you know what, the way we’re going to move forward is by putting in an infill product in. (Iowa Coach) Kirk (Ferentz) was supportive of that.”
The FieldTurf surface is a combination of multicolored fibers for each section of the field. The green portion between the goal lines is shaved in different spots for hash marks. Workers will sew in the yardmarkers and glue in the Tiger-Hawk emblem in each end zone.
The surface is slightly different from those at The Bubble and Iowa’s outdoor practice field. Kinnick’s new surface has a monofilament fiber, while the older turf models had one strand with three fibers at the top. Kinnick’s surface still requires a sand and rubber infill, which will fill in all but about a 1/2-inch of a 2 1/2-inch fiber.
The project’s budget is $2.025 million, and Meyer said the department will finish under budget and likely ahead of the scheduled Aug. 1 completion date. The department has an eight-year warranty with FieldTurf, a Canadian company, with hopes the surface will last up to 15 years. The state Board of Regents approved the project in February, and work began March 12.
Kinnick Stadium’s drainage problems led to the new surface. Thedrainage system was installed in 1989, and drainage tiles below the playing surface were plugged. It caused a near disaster with heavy rain on Sept. 13 before the Iowa State-Iowa football game.
“We had about three inches of water sitting on the 30-yard line south,” Meyer said. “And so at that point, even though we had known we had an issue, it just escalated and heightened our awareness.”
The new drainage system allows for water to flow away from the stadium, both under the field and under the grandstands.
Iowa also has new goal posts in each end zone. Neither are the style of older goal posts designed to keep fans from tearing them down.