Iowa’s Bubble Going Bye-bye Friday, and Not A Minute Too Soon

By Mike Hlas, Columnist

Snow falls outside of the Indoor Practice Facility known as the "Bubble" Monday, Dec. 14, 2009 at the Hayden Fry Football Complex on the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

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By Aaron Hepker

IOWA CITY, Iowa - They’re deflating the University of Iowa football bubble Friday morning, and a good thing it will be.

The space the bubble now uses will be converted into a parking lot. For one of the first times in world history, a parking lot will be a significant aesthetic improvement.

To me, the bubble was a blight on the landscape, a cold, grim, sterile, ugly thing that always hovered over the area near Kinnick Stadium like something out of a really bad 1950s science-fiction movie. Or a polar bear on steroids.

I was in the bubble a hundred times and was always happy and relieved to leave it, even the weather outside was frightful. Which it always was, because sportswriters were only in the bubble to do interviews on Iowa football media days, and those are held outdoors unless the weather is uncooperative.

The thought of spending two hours inside that thing for an entire practice struck me as something a judge would render as punishment for an unspeakable crime.

Why? Because I’m clinically insane, that’s why.

But also because I just didn’t care for its lack of ambiance. A hundred yards of artificial turf surrounded by dirty-white walls and ceiling, no windows to see the outside world, and just one way out, babe. And that was a revolving door that you had to push with the force of a defensive tackle. It made a loud and unpleasant noise that sounded like you were in the vicinity of tornadic activity or something similarly terrifying.

But I may exaggerate.

It’s funny how times change. In 1985, when the air-inflated bubble was completed, it seemed state-of-the-art. But Las Vegas can tell you that what was in vogue in 1985 can just as easily be rubble in 2012. Iowa’s new facility, which looks a bit monstrous as a shell right now, opens this fall.

In 2012, a lousy bubble puts you way behind the 8-ball of college football. You need a complete indoor facility. Iowa’s will be 76,000 square feet. Iowa State’s is 92,000 square feet and opened in 2004.

Nebraska’s $50 million Hawks Championship Center is 81,200 square feet. Michigan’s, completed in 2009, is 104,000 square feet.

Everybody’s got one, is getting one, or insists they need one to keep up. College football is big.

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