By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – University of Iowa officials said earlier this month that they intend to buy the Old Capitol Town Center, a downtown Iowa City mall opened in 1981 just south of the Pentacrest and that already houses many campus programs.
It’s uncertain how they plan to utilize the additional space, but here’s an idea that was suggested to me by a life-long Hawkeye fan.
This fan thinks the UI should consider leveling the Old Capitol Town Center, build a new arena for basketball and then give the Carver-Hawkeye Arena footprint to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
This isn’t the first time that this has been suggested to me.
We’ve discussed this topic before on the Hawk Fanatic radio show and podcast, which airs on KCJJ radio three times a week, and will almost certainly discuss it again on Wednesday.
The location of Carver-Hawkeye Arena is one of many reasons given to explain why Iowa rarely plays before sellout crowds anymore, and why more students don’t attend the games on a regular basis.
Critics say Carver-Hawkeye Arena is too far from where most of the students live, and that the arena is too detached from the community due to having hardly any restaurants or bars near the arena, which opened in 1983.
Those two problems would be eliminated if a new arena was built where the Old Capitol Town Center currently sits says those in favor of that idea.
Many students would only have to walk a few blocks to attend the games, while fans could eat dinner at a nearby restaurant before attending a game, sort of make a night of it.
It all sounds great except for two things: money and space.
Iowa already has plans to build a stand-alone wrestling facility at an estimated cost of $20 million, and a $9 million women’s gymnastics and spirit squad training center, while also making upgrades to its baseball facilities.
And remember, the global pandemic isn’t over, and already has caused severe damage financially.
To level the Old Capitol Town Center in order to build an arena that would have to seat at least 12,000 to 13,000 would cost well in excess of $100 million and would require enough space to where much of the downtown district would also have to be leveled.
There would have to be parking at the new arena, and that would take up lots of space that just isn’t available downtown.
It’s an interesting idea, and one that is inspired by the issues that currently plague Carver-Hawkeye Arena, but it just isn’t realistic under the circumstances.
Space is already tight and precious in downtown Iowa City.
So, imagine trying to squeeze a large arena with parking into limited space.
The best plan moving forward would be for UI officials to address the problems with Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
One idea that makes a lot of sense would be to move the student section courtside and have their seats arranged horizontally rather than vertically as they are now.
Another idea that sounds great, but isn’t very realistic due to cost would be to build a middle concourse at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. However, that ship seems to have sailed a long time ago from a practical standpoint.
Carver-Hawkeye Arena should be rocking on Thursday when the Iowa men’s basketball teams faces No. 6 Purdue.
Iowa also played before an announced sellout crowd against Penn State last Saturday, winning 68-51 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Carver-Hawkeye Arena can be transformed into an electric environment. But it just takes so much for it to happen; the right opponent, the right starting time and the right day of the week.
It’s unfortunate that the arena is so far away from the heart of the campus, but UI officials knew that 40 years ago and still had the arena built.