IOWA CITY --- In 33 minutes, the air-supported practice bubble where University of Iowa athletics teams have prepared for competition for the past 27 years became a memory Friday.
As part of multiple ongoing projects which includes the construction of a new $19.5 million indoor practice for the Hawkeye football team, the bubble that former Iowa coach Hayden Fry fought for to give his teams an indoor practice option was deflated Friday morning.
“It’s a bittersweet day for a lot of people in our department,” Iowa senior associate athletics director Jane Meyer said. “This was a state-of-the-art facility when it was constructed and it has provided a lot of our programs with needed indoor practice space. While there are plenty of memories, it is also a sign that we are moving forward and continuing to progress.”
The entire area north of Kinnick Stadium is a construction zone.
As one crew prepared to the let the air out of the bubble Friday, another crew was installing installation and roofing on the new indoor practice facility located to the west of the existing Recreation Building. Another crew was working on a transportation center which will serve 5,000 people a day for the nearby University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
The space where the bubble has sat will be replaced by a north-south street connecting Hawkins Drive and Evashevski Drive and a parking lot for 689 cars.
Kirsta Scranton, senior construction project manager for the University of Iowa, said the projects are moving at or ahead of schedule.
The indoor practice facility is scheduled to be ready for use in August and the transportation center will essentially be completed in September. The parking lot, which will also be connected to Carver-Hawkeye Arena by a walkway, is scheduled to be finished by Sept. 5, three days before Iowa plays its first home football game.
Things went pretty much as planned Friday.
Power was cut to the bubble at 9:30 a.m. and doors on both sides of the facility were opened, allowing the air which was supporting the bubble’s roof to slowly escape.
There was little visible change for a little over 10 minutes before a slow, steady fall began.
With a raw April wind blowing, corners of the bubble occasionally filled with air, creating a wave effect before the top eventually reached the ground, first touching in the northeast corner about 25 minutes after the process began.
Less than 10 minutes later, the ground was covered by the fabric.
Meyer said a subcontractor has already found a way to repurpose both the fabric and the turf which sat below it.
She said the new indoor practice facility, which will be LEED certified, should present considerable energy savings for the university compared to the bubble it is replacing.