July 12, 2004
The UI Athletics Department is ready to jump on board the Hawkeye Express, literally. Final negotiations completed last week will allow thousands of patrons to travel from a conveniently located parking lot by the Coral Ridge Mall to Kinnick Stadium for $5, a revival of a popular mode of transportation to the historic stadium in the 1930s.
But the story of the Hawkeye Express really begins in Manly, a small North Iowa railroad town known only for a presidential whistle-stop visit by President Truman in the 1940s. It was in Manly where current Associate Athletic Director Mark Jennings and high school classmate Dan Sabin made a friendship that put the Hawkeye Express on track.
Sabin, now a Coralville, IA, resident, is owner of the Iowa Northern Railroad and president of the Iowa Railroad Association, and when Jennings approached him about reusing the old train stop just to the west of the stadium, Sabin volunteered his services.
“It’s unbelievable that it would work out that way,” said Jennings of his small-town roots yielding such a major project at the University of Iowa. “(Sabin) has immersed himself in the project as a volunteer, and there’s no way we could have done this without his help.”
The Rio Grande Railroad will operate the Colorado Ski Train, which can seat and stand 1,000 people per trip, on the Iowa Interstate Railroad, which currently operates the track behind Kinnick Stadium. IIR has previously curtailed the freight train traffic on game days, but has made special arrangements for the Hawkeye Express.
“We think this can help us with the traffic congestion and help with the one- or two-time ticket holder, who often gets into a funk with parking. Plus, it will only make a day at Kinnick that much more fun.”
Associate Athletic Director Rick Klatt
“We’re very appreciative of that group,” Jennings said. “We had 38 people on a committee from city managers to the IIR to university insurance and attorneys and the landowners, and every single person wanted to make things happen. Rarely do we have a meeting with 38 people and can all go in a single direction.”
While many will want to get in on the Hawkeye Express experience, the parking lot and train service will appeal especially to the single-game ticket holder, who may not be able to park close to the stadium on the day of the game. The lots, located just off of I-80, will provide easy on-and-off for travelers and a will be available free of charge this season. Also, the parking lots will allow tailgating and all the fun of other parking facilities.
“We think this can help us with the traffic congestion and help with the one- or two-time ticket holder, who often gets into a funk with parking,” Associate Athletic Director for External Affairs Rick Klatt said. “Plus, it will only make a day at Kinnick that much more fun.”
Train service from the lot, which will cost $5 per person round trip, will run 30 minute shifts starting 2 ? hours prior to game time and finish some 90 minutes after the game ends. Service will restart in the fourth quarter for those who wish to avoid post-game rushes.
The Colorado Ski Train usually services Denver and Winter Park vacationers, but will spend September through November in Iowa City.
But perhaps the best part of the project will be that all will be in place for the Sept. 4 “Throwback Game” when Iowa takes on Kent State at 11 a.m. Fans will be able to arrive at historic Kinnick Stadium the same way that those in the 1930s did while watching a game that will replicate the same feel from the period.
“People have been talking about this for months, and it’s just luck that we’re celebrating the 75th anniversary of Kinnick the same year as we can start the train service,” said Klatt.
Barry Pump, hawkeyesports.com