Kinnick Stadium Enters the High Definition Age

By Marc Morehouse, Reporter

Workers install the supports for the new ribbon display that will stretch across the top of the north end zone at Kinnick Stadium Monday, June 17, 2013 in Iowa City. (Brian Ray/The Gazette-KCRG)

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By Sam Louwagie

IOWA CITY, Iowa — The HD videoscreen in the south end zone of Kinnick Stadium is capable of going full view across, all 3,968 square feet.

It will, but not all the time and probably not as much as you want.

The University of Iowa fired up the new high-definition videoboards in Kinnick for the media Thursday. The north end zone is where you’ll see the biggest change, two HD video walls (21 1/2 X 38) and a ribbon board that is approximately 8 feet tall and nearly 400 feet long.

The UI is working on the sound system, which, for now, comes mostly from behind the south scoreboard. Athletics director Gary Barta said there will be some improvement this season, but sound consultants want to hear what games sound like in Kinnick before a complete overhaul. The sound system was widely panned by fans in a survey conducted earlier this year by UI athletics.

“It will sound better,” Barta said, “but we’re not done yet.”

The impetus for the $9 million project was to enhance the in-stadium experience. After digging through the survey, the UI feels it’s addressed four biggies — more replays, larger video on main scoreboard, more stats, team and individual and more scores from games across the country.

“You can sit in your living room and have high definition and have it all before you on a big screen,” Barta said. “We want to make sure the experience in the stadium is world-class, first-class.”

Let’s get to the full-screen questions about the south videoboard.

The scoreboard contains information game officials have deemed necessary for coaches and players to see during a game, according to Rick Klatt, UI associate athletics director. This includes score, time left in the game and timeouts. The same info is available on the north scoreboard, but game officials want it on both boards.

The advertising isn’t going away, either.

“The advertising hasn’t grown. They’re going to be there,” Klatt said. “But there is this expectation that we were going to be 100 percent video, we simply can’t for the most reasonable reason of all — the coaching staff, the players, the game officials need that data.”

There will be instances, however, when the south scoreboard will go full screen. (The condensed HD version is still 60 percent bigger — 1,296 square feet to 814 — than it was the previous eight seasons, when it was also standard definition.)

“When the Hawkeyes score a touchdown, that’s [ads, game information] going to go away,” Klatt said. “The board will become black and gold and all the celebration pieces will be up.”

Stadium operations have consulted with head coach Kirk Ferentz on what its plans are for the times the scoreboard does go full screen.

“Full disclosure, we’re going to react to the coaching staff,” Klatt said. “If the coaching staff tells us, even after a touchdown, if it’s close to halftime or late in a game, we still need that game data available to us, we’ll probably tweak our operation.

“But right now, the coaching staff has told us, yes, five or six or 10 seconds of celebration, by all means, we’re celebrating. We’re also working, so we’re going to need that data as quick as we can get it.”

Other times the south scoreboard will go full screen: pregame, first-quarter break, halftime, third-quarter break, fourth quarter. Also, when the Hawkeyes make a significant play, including touchdowns and big turnovers.

“We’re building graphics to fill up the entire space. We’re hoping we see a lot of them,” Klatt said. “We’re hoping we see a lot of touchdowns and field goals, that kind of stuff.”

Also on significant plays, the board will be cut in half and two different camera angles will show a replay.

On the replay front, the stadium crew runs around 100 replays per game. That number won’t increase, but Iowa will relax its standards on replaying controversial plays.

“The Big Ten has loosened its restrictions on controversial replays,” Klatt said. “We were one of the schools that was pretty tight on following the guidelines prior to this year. Fans will continue to see about every play replayed, but more than a year, when we were close to the policy for those controversial plays, we’re going to open it up.”

Barta said there is no WiFi connectivity at Kinnick Stadium. It remains a goal, however.

“We’ve been working with our cell partners to improve and enhance cell coverage over the last several years,” Barta said. “The next step to WiFi, like every stadium in America, technology is still struggling there. We haven’t figured that all out. We have better cell coverage, but we’re not yet ready to say you can walk in here with your smartphone and have full coverage. That won’t be the case, just like it won’t be the case for just about every stadium in America.”
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