University of Iowa wants $19.5M football practice field

The Bubble might soon pop.

The University of Iowa on Thursday released a proposal to demolish the football teams 25-year-old indoor practice facility, known as the Bubble, and build a $19.5 million replacement nearby.

The Board of Regents will be asked next week to approve the design and budget of the new indoor practice field. If approved, construction is expected to begin next fall and last one year.

It would mark the end of an era for the Iowa football program. Built in 1985 under then-Coach Hayden Fry, the Bubble has been a campus landmark and a practice home for a generation of Hawkeyes.

The 102,000-square-foot replacement facility would be located nearby, just west of the Recreation Building and south of the teams outdoor practice field. It would include a full-length football field with artificial turf, video platforms and storage space.

The plans make clear the new building would look nothing like its predecessor. Instead of an inflatable white cover that whips in the wind, it would have a metal roof that would match the Kinnick Stadium press box and panels that would allow daylight inside.

University officials said the age and condition of the bubble, its high energy use and safety concerns caused by the fields proximity to concrete walls were all factors in their proposal to demolish it. They said they could invest money to keep the facility open for several more years but that would not be an effective investment, according to planning documents.

They also noted its demolition would help clear the way for a new childrens hospital, a project that is forcing the relocation of a university bus station and parking and transportation offices. The space occupied by the old practice field would be used to replace parking spots for University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics employees and a new roadway.

The practice field would be paid for with athletic department donations and revenue and funds from UIHC and Recreational Services, which will use the facility for intramural sports and classes. The building would also be used by other athletics programs, including baseball, softball and soccer.

University officials said the project would be the first part of a plan to modernize its football facilities. School officials said they need more office space, a larger weight room and an updated training room, among other changes, to keep pace with a growing staff and new technology.

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