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Official Review by James Hilchen, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Opened in 1929, Kinnick Stadium plays host to the Iowa Hawkeyes football team of the Big Ten Conference. The stadium name was changed from Iowa Stadium in 1972. Nile Kinnick won the Heisman Trophy in 1939 and remains the only Hawkeye to ever win that honor. With a capacity of just over 70,000, Kinnick would be the fifth-largest city in Iowa when filled to capacity. Construction of the stadium took a mere seven months, with workers working around the clock under lights while utilizing horses and mules to do the heavy lifting.
Several upgrades have been made throughout the years, including a state of the art press box, permanent seating in the south end zone, and the addition of more concession stands and restrooms. The latest upgrades occurred prior to the 2013 season, when new HD video boards and HD ribbon were installed above the north end zone.
An interesting feature of Kinnick is unseen by fans. Former Hawkeyes coach Hayden Frye had the visiting locker room painted pink. As renovations occurred, the tradition continued and pink lockers and urinals were also added to the visiting locker rooms.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Kinnick offers up your standard stadium menu with a few specialties worth noting. Iowa's favorite food, the pork tenderloin sandwich, tops the list. A tenderloin strip basket is also available (both $7). Add $3 to make it a basket with fries. If pork isn't a favorite, try the walking taco. A walking taco is chili and other fixings poured over an open bag of Fritos, or sometimes other chips. It's a tasty choice and there isn't much to throw away after. Pizza Ranch offers a 9-inch pizza ($9). Typical brats ($5.50), double cheeseburgers ($9), souvenir popcorn with refill ($10), and all the other popular stadium favorites are also available.
Drink choices are Coke products including a souvenir cup ($6) or regular ($4.50). Water, Powerade, tea, and hot chocolate are also sold. No alcohol is sold at the stadium.
For a few more options, there are food trucks on the south side of the stadium before, during, and after the game, including a truck that sells some good Chinese food.
It's hard to find a better college football atmosphere anywhere. Tailgating is a big deal in Iowa City and the closer you get to the stadium, the bigger the party gets. Early kickoffs don't dampen the spirits of the fans. The proximity to student housing certainly helps keep the good time going and Iowa is always ranked among the best party schools in the nation for those that rank such things.
All concessions and restrooms are located underneath the seating bowls. As such, when you reach your seats, there are no distractions, simply 100% college football. It is a rare occurrence to find a Hawkeyes fan wearing a color other than black or gold (the team's colors) and it is easy to see where the visiting fans are sitting when little pockets of other colors are apparent.
The student sections are in the southwest corner of the stadium. Students will stand throughout the entire game and add to the great atmosphere. Below the student section is where the Hawkeyes enter the field. Called "the swarm," the team entrance is hugely popular with the fans. The Hawkeyes exit their locker room and walk towards the field with the AC/DC hit "Back In Black" playing. When the team arrives at the field, "Enter Sandman" (Metallica) plays as the players run onto the playing surface.
Throughout the game, the fans are loud, the music (when played) is loud, and it creates a feeling of everything that college football should be.
The stadium is located on campus, amongst the other U of I sports venues. Just outside the campus, there are numerous great options for food and drinks along with a few other places worth seeing if there is extra time.
The area directly across the street from the entrance to the sports complexes (US Hwy 6) offer a couple places worth stopping. Wig and Pen Pizza Pub offers a good variety of pub food and drinks. This British themed pub also serves some good pizza. The prices are decent and there is a great atmosphere. Next to Wig and Pen is Vine Tavern & Eatery. Like Wig and Pen, Vine is jammed with fans before, during, and after games.
Being a college town, there is no shortage of bars with some solid food. The Airliner is located in the downtown area and is another favorite hangout for Hawkeye fans. The thin crust pizza gets top choice here.
If you have some spare time on your hands, The University of Iowa Museum of Natural History and the Old Capitol Museum are downtown. The Old Capitol Museum, built in 1840, was where Iowa made the transition to statehood. The old building is well worth seeing and the architecture is tremendous. The Natural History Museum is great for kids. Both have free admission and are well worth a look.
If staying in Iowa City, there are plenty of lodging options along I-80, including a Holiday Inn Express and Hampton Inn.
Hawkeye fans are a welcoming bunch. When winding your way through the tailgaters, don't be surprised to find that they have invited fans of the opposing team to enjoy a drink or have some food; something that would not occur at some other venues across the country.
Once the teams take the field, it's all about football. Fans are engaged and loud from before the kickoff and don't let up while there is action on the field. For close plays, most fans immediately turn to the large video board on the south side of the stadium to await the replay. Outside of snapping occasional pictures, it's a rarity to see people playing on their cell phones during the game.
Fans know their players, get on the referees when they believe the occasion dictates, and give the opposing fans good-natured ribbing.
Kinnick is located on the Iowa campus. Getting to the stadium will yield a bit of a wait, but not nearly as bad as one might expect coming into a small town. There are several entrances to the parking areas and the fact that so many fans show up early to tailgate helps spread out arrival times, making lines much shorter.
The restrooms and concessions are all located under the seating bowls. When Kinnick was built 87 years ago, it wasn't designed for the influx of 70,000 people and the concourses get quite congested, especially immediately before the game and at halftime. Lines are long and maneuvering around isn't the easiest thing to do. Better to miss a few minutes of the game and get in line prior to halftime (there are televisions throughout the concourses so you can still keep track of the game).
There are plenty of nice seating areas for handicapped fans around both end zones.
Big Ten football isn't cheap in general and this is no exception. Prices vary depending on opponent and waiting for tickets isn't much of an option because Kinnick is usually quite full. Prices range from $30 on the low end to upwards of $80 to get in. Parking will run $20 with some cheaper options further away. With concession pricing being about the norm, it is a bit of an investment to attend a game. With the great atmosphere and some big name teams coming into town, the investment is worth the price.
An extra point goes to the massive tailgating that is such a big portion of the Kinnick experience. Come early and enjoy!
Lining the Paul Brechler Press Box are the numbers and names of the members of the University of Iowa Varsity Club Hall of Fame. It's a nice tribute to those who have been given the honor.
Throughout the concourses are banners celebrating Big Ten accomplishments and bowl games.
If you are a fan of college football, Kinnick Stadium is for you. The party starts well before kickoff, the fans are great, and the atmosphere is everything it should be. Take a trip to Iowa City and enjoy everything this great stadium has to offer.
Member Review by NickKappel
The home of Iowa Hawkeyes football debuted in 1929 as Iowa Stadium. In 1972, it was renamed Kinnick Stadium, in honor of the university's only Heisman Trophy winner Nile Kinnick- who received the award in 1939 before being killed in service during World War II. Kinnick Stadium seats up to 70,585 fans, making it one of the 20 largest university owned stadiums in the nation.
Member Review by paul on Apr 05, 2012
There's something special about the sports fans in Iowa. Without a major pro team, the residents of Eastern Iowa are passionate about their Hawkeyes and that is clear when you attend any Iowa sporting event, especially a football game at Kinnick Stadium.
Member Review by shanleye3 on Dec 07, 2012
A great atmosphere. Sat in the front row for the UNI/Iowa game in 2009. The worst part was the 30 minute wait it took to leave the stadium from down in the front row. It was about a 15 minute wait at halftime.
Member Review by hilch on Sep 23, 2013
Kinnick Stadium, home to the Iowa Hawkeyes football team, opened in 1929 as Iowa Stadium. In 1972 the stadium was re-named after Nile Kinnick, the 1939 Heisman Trophy winner and only Hawkeye to have that honor.
Kinnick Stadium features a visiting locker room that is painted pink. This practice began during legendary coach Hayden Fry’s tenure and remains today. The tradition has continued even through renovations with pink lockers and urinals going in.
Upgrades have continued throughout the existence of the stadium including going to a synthetic Field Turf playing surface. The latest upgrade was completed before the 2013 season. A huge upgrade of the video and audio systems throughout the stadium has made the presentation within the stadium quite impressive. A large video board (21.5 x 38 feet) is located on the south end of the stadium with smaller ribbon display boards over the north end.
Member Review by Aaron S. Terry on Nov 03, 2015
Kinnick Stadium is in the middle of nowhere, and most people have to park in grass fields near the stadium. I would avoid these if at all possible, b/c it takes forever to get out of them. I passed up a chance to park in a tiny gravel lot about a half mile away and kicked myself over it for hours.
Once you get in the stadium is decent, and the atmosphere is pretty fun. Good crowd, especially b/c Iowa is good right now, but also they tend to play some really good teams most of the time since they are in the Big 10.
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