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  • Chuck Utech

UNI-Dome – Northern Iowa Panthers


Photos by Chuck Utech, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.57

UNI-Dome 2401 Hudson Rd Cedar Falls, IA 50614



Year Opened: 1976

Capacity: 16,324

 

Dome Sweet Dome


Rising out of the Northeast Iowa corn and soybean fields like a mountain peak on the horizon, the UNI-Dome (pronounced You-neh Dome) provides an easily found landmark used year-round for a plethora of activities, including the Northern Iowa Panther Football Team.


The UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls, Iowa is a multi-use facility, but not in the cookie-cutter image of say old Three Rivers in Pittsburgh or the former Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati. For over 45 years, it has been home to concerts, conventions, and special events. For athletics, it has hosted NCAA Wrestling Championships, college basketball conference championships, annual Iowa High school football championships, and regular season softball, volleyball, and basketball.


The field is called Sheriff Field, named after former head coach and athletic director, Stan Sheriff. The late coach also has an events center at the University of Hawaii named for him after spending 10 years as their athletic director until his passing in 1993.


The dome has changed over the years. It was once air-filled until a collapse from a 1994 snowstorm. At that time, it did have a more bag-like appearance. It has since been replaced with a more permanent metal roof.

Food & Beverage 3

Once inside the dome, concessions are on each side. Choices are simple but plentiful. “Dome Dogs” are $4.50 and provided by Smithfield. The Dome Dog has improved over the years. Klement’s bratwursts are $5. Papa John’s Pizza is also $5 for a slice.


There are two different sizes of popcorn ranging in price from $4.50-$5.50. Nachos ($5), and pretzels for snacking. A regular soda (Coca-Cola products) is $4.50 and a souvenir cup of soda is $5.50; water is $4. For the sweet tooth, candy, cotton candy, and caramel corn are all available in the $4.50-$5 range. Like many venues in the state of Iowa, soft serve Ice cream is a fan favorite for $4.50.


Beer sales began a few years back and are $7. There are beer stands both on the north and south side of the dome.


Atmosphere 4

The Panthers football team has had a long stretch of success and the fans certainly are proud of that heritage. Students have prime seating on the partisan side of the field, but in moving around, sight lines are solid and there is not a bad seat in the house. Being an enclosed venue helps the dome get loud. Crowds can make a difference during the game and are boisterous during pivotal sequences.


In 2008, an HD video board was installed. In 2014, this was replaced by a 100×27 foot video board overlooking the south end zone. The existing HD board replaced a quaint scoreboard. This adds immensely to the experience. The marching band warms up the crowd before kicking and performing at halftime.


Neighborhood 3

Want a little ambiance pre or post-game? The College Hill section of campus is about a five-minute drive northeast and is a good place to spend some time. The area also offers a few bars like the Library. Mohair Pear, an eclectic gift shop is a fun place to visit. The official college bookstore is also located in this area for those wanting a larger variety of school gear. Outside of campus, an excellent restaurant that is a fan favorite is Peppers.


Fans 4

Tailgating lots are packed at least three hours before kickoff. Inside, the fans are knowledgeable and passionate. UNI is behind the spotlight of Iowa and Iowa State and plays in the FCS, but the fans show immense loyalty. The home winning percentage is annually high. The dome gets very loud and it echoes up by the concourse just about as well as it does on row 1 by the field. Many fans line up viewing sections in the end zones for an even closer to-the-action experience. Staff and security are quite friendly and do a great job with the lively fans.


Access 4

Access is gained most easily through the gates on either the west side or south side of the facility. Tickets can be purchased online or at the main ticket booth at the Dome. These games have sold well in the past and buying tickets early is recommended.


Doors open 60 minutes before kickoff. Depending on the direction you are traveling from, the UNI-Dome is relatively easy to spot and get to. Highway 20 is the east-west way of choice, while Highway 218 is the north-south thoroughfare. If coming from the west, there are signs and a back route marked that helps during Iowa Construction season. Past that is Hudson Road, a north-south connector that is used by the students and fans making the walk in from campus. Public Parking is free just to the South. The lots are easy to both get into and depart from.


Inside, the venue is fairly handicap accessible. The concourses are spacious. There are plenty of security guards and attendants to ensure a pleasant experience. If you are a smoker, then you are allowed to leave and re-enter by showing the hand stamp. If you are leaving the Dome itself, re-entry is not permitted.


Return on Investment 4

Ticket prices do vary from around $10-$40 depending on what seat one wants. The price is extremely reasonable for a corner seat with a good view. Whether you are attending the game for a family outing, a parent-child trip, as a football fan, or as the biggest of Panther boosters, the memories made are quite cost-effective.


Extras 3

One point for the programs. They are free, full-size, informative, and chocked with color photos. Stacks are available by the entrances.


One point for the available merchandise. Not always do venues have a lot of options for those in attendance. Outside in a trailer, and above the north end zone is a very large supply of Northern Iowa Panther merchandise in many styles and sizes to choose from.


One point for Northern Iowa celebrating their past stars. Kurt Warner along with others has found NFL success and they are celebrated within the dome.


Final Thoughts

The UNI-Dome is a great resource within the state of Iowa. It is easy to get to and very affordable compared to the larger state schools. If you’re in the area on an autumn weekend, then this is a great destination.

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