AMES, Iowa (AP) — For decades, Iowa State fans have longed for the school to rip out the metal bleachers in the south end zone and connect it to the rest of Jack Trice Stadium.
Thanks to a $25 million gift from Reiman Publications founders Roy and Bobbi Reiman, the university is finally set to do a lot more than that.
Athletic director Jamie Pollard said Monday that the university will use the $25 million donation to jumpstart plans to enclose that part of the stadium and create an “inspiring campus entrance.”
The end zone set to be bowled in faces University Boulevard, the road many use to enter campus. It currently has just a small set of bleachers between a pair of grassy hills that fans can sit on at discounted prices.
Final plans for the project have yet to be developed, and the total cost or the number of seats to be added hasn’t yet been figured out. But Pollard says the school hopes to be completed by the start of the 2015 season.
The project will go in front of the Iowa Board of Regents for approval in February.
“This transformational gift allows the university to request permission from the Board of Regents to begin the planning process for a project that promises to create a stunning entrance to our campus and a dramatic game-day football environment,” Pollard said.
The announcement reaffirmed the school’s commitment to the football team despite a 2-9 record heading into Saturday’s finale at West Virginia. It also illustrated just how far the program has come under fifth-year coach Paul Rhoads.
Iowa State set a school record with an average attendance of 55,361 for six home games and sold out three times. The Cyclones even drew a sellout crowd against Oklahoma State on Oct. 26 — just a week after Baylor beat them by 64 points.
In two years, those fans who cheer on the Cyclones while sitting on the grass should finally have seats as well.
A closed-in end zone would also likely reduce wind — which is often a big issue in Ames — and increase sound within the stadium.
“If there’s one thing that the fans have always craved for, it’s bowling in, it’s closing in that south end zone. They’re going to get their wish. They’re going to get their desire. It’s already a phenomenal atmosphere in Jack Trice Stadium. This is fully going to enhance that atmosphere,” Rhoads said.
The announcement of this project comes just over a year after Iowa State dedicated a new 60,000-foot football-only complex that cost $20.5 million. The stadium also went through a $19.5 million renovation in 2008, and two years ago the Cyclones added an 80-foot video scoreboard.
That may sound like a lot of work, but Iowa State is simply trying to keep up with the rest of the Big 12. A number of league schools have gone through renovations of late, led by Baylor and the new 45,000-seat stadium it’ll open next year.
“I don’t think we should have any trouble selling out that bowl going forward. That’s big. It really kind of kicks us up another notch,” Iowa State running back Jeff Woody said.