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Official Review by James Hilchen, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
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.
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 Stadium has a decent selection of food. A grilled chicken sandwich, cheeseburger, or an Iowa specialty, a pork tenderloin sandwich run $6.50. Footlong hot dogs are $5.50 or you can add chili and cheese for $7.50. Brats ($4.50), walking tacos ($6), and pizza slices ($4) are also available. For snacks, souvenir popcorn with a free refill can be had for $12. Nachos, peanuts, pretzels, and other snacks run about $3.50 to $4.50.
Coke products in a souvenir cup run $5 while a regular soda will cost you $4. Iced tea ($5), Smart Water ($6), bottled water ($4), and coffee or hot chocolate ($3.50) are also available. As with many college stadiums, no alcohol is served.
The true atmosphere of a Hawkeyes game occurs before you enter the stadium where the parking lots are jammed and tailgating is the name of the game. Hawkeyes fans enjoy their tailgating. Even games that begin at 11:00am local time, don't prohibit large groups from having a good time. It's no surprise that Iowa topped the 2013 Princeton Review as the top party school in the nation.
A large statue of Nile Kinnick greets fans as they approach the stadium. Iowa players touch the helmet that sits with the statue as they enter the locker room before the game in respect to Kinnick.
The team enters the field to AC/DC's "Back in Black" blaring through the new sound system. The school marching band is on the field and plays the Iowa fight song after the team arrives.
New video boards adorn the north and south sides of the stadium. Replays are instantaneous when called for and great Hawkeyes plays of the past are played on the video boards during breaks in the game.
Kinnick Stadium sits amongst the other sports venues at the University of Iowa. As such, the immediate surrounding area generally has little to offer. On football game days however, parties exist everywhere. Don't be surprised if someone chats you up and offers you a beer or burger before the game. The tailgaters at Iowa are generally very nice and welcoming.
After the game, downtown Iowa City is the place to be. Located about a mile from the stadium, there are plenty of places to eat and drink along with some sightseeing choices should you desire. Directly across Second Street are the Vine Tavern and Eatery, and Wig and Pen Pizza Pub. Both places are jammed on game days. Wig and Pen offers good pizza and drink specials on game days.
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.
Directly across the street from the Old Capitol Museum is The Airliner Bar. The Airliner has a tremendous atmosphere, plenty of televisions for sports of all kinds, and daily food and drink specials. Much like Vine Tavern and Wig and Pen, Airliner is jammed on game day.
Fans are passionate about their Hawkeyes. The student sections are located in the southwest portion of the stadium. This is important to note as the students stand the entire game, sitting only between quarters and at halftime so be prepared if you choose to sit there.
Fans are there to see the game rather than to come to a social event. They know their players and are engaged throughout the game. However, they are generally kind to the opposing fans, giving only good-natured ribbing.
The stadium is located a couple miles off I-80. There are numerous entrances to the stadium and with people arriving throughout the morning to tailgate, there is actually less of a line than there is for basketball at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. If you choose to tailgate, get there early. I arrived three hours before game time and there were already a mass of people in the area. Parking begins at $20 and is $15 a little farther out.
Kinnick Stadium does a nice job with seating for handicapped fans. There is a special section to sit along with friends or family. As the entrances to those sections are for people sitting in that section only, getting in and out is not a difficult process.
The majority of the food offerings and the restrooms are under the seating bowl. Perhaps it was due to the particularly warm day I visited, but getting through the concourse at halftime was nearly impossible. Long lines form for food along with lines for the restrooms. As such walking through the concourse involves zigzagging through lines which further slows things down. Your best bet is to miss a little of the game and avoid the concourse during halftime.
Tickets are sold on a sliding scale with the more important games being priced higher than other games. Prices range from $25-$70, depending on the opponent and choice of where to sit. Couple the ticket cost with the $15-$20 parking and you are looking at a little bit of an investment.
However, the prices aren't out of line with other big conference football programs and the experience from pre-game to seeing the game makes it worthwhile.
The "wall of honor" lines the outside of the Paul Brechler press box. Included on the wall are the names and numbers of the nine players who meet the criteria to make the University of Iowa Varsity Club Hall of Fame.
Throughout the concourses are small banners noting Big Ten conference titles, bowl games, etc.
The tailgating before the game gets an extra star due to the pure size of the parties and friendliness of the folks involved.
What could be better than Big 10 football on a cool, crisp fall day? From the early morning tailgaters to the unforgettable team entrance to the field to the game itself, Kinnick Stadium provides an experience well worth seeing.
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 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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