Closing the Curtain on Opening Night

Aug. 26, 2011

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Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — The renovated home of the Hawkeyes is not yet 100-percent complete, but the athletic department is ready to hang some curtains.

Seventeen black vinyl curtains will hang from the rafters of Carver-Hawkeye Arena when the University of Iowa volleyball team’s season opens tonight. They cover 23 sections of the award winning facility, touching the floor behind row 23 and creating an intimate playing environment that rivals no other venue in the Big Ten. The curtains span nearly 360-degrees around the arena, and include breaks in the stairways and on the gym’s east side, where television site lines target the playing court.

“It feels like a college event,” said head coach Sharon Dingman. “It feels special. It has been so much fun to walk into Carver this week for preseason workouts. As much as I love the practice facility, nothing compares to Carver. To go into Carver and see the curtains and new chairs, it’s been awesome.”

The new chairs Dingman praises include approximately 500 premium seats that line the east and west sidelines. There are also new seats installed in the north and south baselines – all black, a perfect match to the new curtains.

“It just looks like a big time college environment,” said senior Megan Eskew. “We’ll be able to play on a big stage and still have the fans close to the action.”

Senior Associate Director of Athletics Jane Meyer said the curtains were the most economical and realistic solution to paring a 15,500-seat arena into an advantageous venue that now seats 8,517.

“When you look at our competitors’ volleyball venues,” said Meyer, “they have taken their old basketball arena and turned it into a smaller venue. So we said, ‘what can we do to Carver without taking away from the openness of it, but still condensing it down and making it a smaller arena?'”

The curtains are positioned many feet below the rafters to maintain the open-air quality Meyer wanted to preserve, which means fans can still get a near-panoramic view of the concourse.

“Sharon (Dingman) had told us that Missouri had done something similar,” said Meyer. “So we explored the idea and customized it to fit our needs. We left one side open to accommodate the television site lines, and that means that even the patrons who do not want to maneuver the steps will still have a place to enjoy the games near the top of the concourse.”

In addition to volleyball, Meyer said the curtains will be used for women’s basketball, and men’s and women’s gymnastics events.

“(The coaches) are absolutely thrilled,” said Meyer. “Lisa (Bluder) has always been open to it. Sharon was an obvious supporter. And it provides us a venue for gymnastics, knowing we can no longer accommodate the interest in our gymnastics programs at the Field House.”

Besides the aesthetic improvements to Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Dingman thinks the new arena offers the Hawkeyes a greater competitive advantage.

“The players understand how hard it is for teams to come into Carver to play because so many Big Ten facilities are much smaller and more intimate,” said Dingman. “The perception here is vastly different than those environments. That’s why it was so important for us to get in the gym before the season opener.”

The Hawkeyes open the season tonight at 7 p.m. Meyer will be in attendance to see the fans fill the seats and witness the final product.

“I want to see how it’s going to work and see the reaction from our fans,” Meyer said. “We assume it’s going to be positive and hopefully it’s a benefit to our team and our fans, because that’s really why you do these things.

“I think it is meeting peoples’ expectations. For us it’s a matter of, ‘did we meet the majority of expectations?’ and I think we did. But our fans need to tell us that as well, because the changes in the bowl are intended to help them have a better experience at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.”