Posted July 19, 2013
AMES, Ia. Another record-setting Iowa State attendance season will reinvigorate discussion about enclosing Jack Trice Stadium’s South end. The conversation will happen. It always does when Cyclone football is a box-office success – as is expected again in 2013. The chatter now, though, has risen to the level of when that end of the stadium will be redesigned, not if it will happen. The prediction here is that it will happen within the next five years. Urbandale’s Allen Lazard, potentially the Iowa State’s best scholarship commitment since Paul Rhoads became the coach in 2009, will be catching passes inside an enclosed stadium during his senior season — barring early entry into the NFL draft, of course. “I think in the next five to 10 years, if projections continue,” said Warren Madden, Iowa State vice president for business and finance. Madden, who has worked for five Iowa State presidents since the mid-1960s, knows what he’s talking about. He is Iowa State, and so are fans that will break the school’s season attendance average for a third consecutive season. But, it’s not as simple as athletics director Jamie Pollard knocking on go-to donors’ doors. You certainly can hit him up while he hobnobs from one tailgate gathering to another during a season that starts Aug. 31 against Northern Iowa at the stadium. You can put a bug in university president Steven Leath’s ear, too, because ultimately, the decision will come from his office in Beardshear Hall, not Pollard’s in the Jake. “That project is a much bigger project than the athletic department’s,” Pollard said. “It’s the front door of the campus, it’s Reiman Gardens, it’s seating, and it’s parking.” The school’s idea is to make it an impressive “Welcome to Iowa State” entrance — of which the stadium’s south end zone will be a significant part. “It’s the front door to Iowa State,” Madden said. Jack Trice and Reiman Gardens will be the campus’ first impression for out-of-towners arriving on Highway 30, the most common route for 1.3 million fans who have attended football games since 2009. “In my conversations with president Leath,” Madden continued, “we want to do some master planning in that area — and athletics is a big part of that. Football is one of the major financial drivers of intercollegiate athletics.” Improving Iowa State’s front door won’t be done haphazardly. Anything involving the stadium “won’t be made independently by the athletic department,” Pollard said. We’re bringing this topic up now, just more than a month before the Cyclones’ opener, because it will become conversational during a season that includes six home games. There’s a buzz around Iowa State football. The 56,800-seat stadium averaged 97 percent of capacity for seven games last season. “Ten years – I hope it’s sooner than that,” Pollard said when asked if he felt the stadium would be reconfigured within a decade. Iowa State will extend its record of consecutive games with 50,000 or more paid admissions to 19 when Kansas comes to Ames on Nov. 23. Demand for tickets will engulf supply – and then some – for games against Iowa on Sept. 14, and probably for games against Texas on Oct. 3, and Oklahoma State on Oct. 26. “That’s a good barometer for getting to that spot,” Pollard said, about enclosing the stadium. Record enrollment is expected when Iowa State’s doors open in the fall. There’s always a need for more student housing. Reiman Gardens is a priority. Parking could become an issue. “And you’ve got the athletic department wanting to do something with the South end zone,” Pollard said. “There are a lot of moving parts, and that’s healthy. “I’m glad it’s evolved into something like that. It reflects how important athletics is to Iowa State University — that we’re all part of the mix of being the front door of Iowa State’s campus.” Randy Peterson has reported on college football for more than three decades at the Register and covers Iowa State football. Follow him on Twitter: @RandyPete.