IOWA CITY — Carver-Hawkeye Arena remains stuffy and muggy at all times of day, even in the morning. When it gets to mid-afternoon in the burning days of summer, it's boiling.
Iowa women's basketball coach Lisa Bluder experienced those stifling temperatures in July when her team hit the floor in preparation for an overseas trip next week.
"It was unbearable to be in there," Bluder said Thursday morning. "And this is just beautiful."
The place Bluder calls "this" has two air-conditioned, regulation basketball practice courts that run parallel to one another. One floor is a replica of the court soon to appear at Carver-Hawkeye Arena's main floor. It has black baselines with gold lettering, and black fills the paint area along with the league "B1G" logo.
"It’s beyond my expectation," Iowa junior Morgan Johnson said. "The huge Tiger-Hawk in the middle, the huge out-of-bounds line, it’s literally just like practicing in Carver."
The practice courts are part of a $47 million, 131,000-square foot addition and renovation to Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The practice facility was the showcase expansion, but the project includes new offices, locker rooms, strength and conditioning center and a front door to Iowa's athletics complex.
"Really it’s long overdue, and we did this for the student-athletes," said Jane Meyer, Iowa's senior associate athletics director. "Secondly, it’s for our coaches to let them perform their jobs, which is to have the facilities to recruit and then to actually teach in them."
For nearly a decade Iowa's men's basketball coaches have pleaded for a new practice facility to keep up with Big Ten schools, especially in the recruiting game. It's now a reality, and it's secure.
The practice facility uses hand geometry and codes instead of keys. Only basketball and volleyball athletes can use the gyms, while the wrestling squad has its own renovated practice facility.
Meyer said about 60 percent of the project is new construction and the other 40 percent of the area was renovated. The basketball and volleyball practice facility is on the second floor, just above the new 11,000 square-foot strength and conditioning center. The former strength area was about 1,800 square feet.
Sixteen inches of concrete separate the basketball courts from the first-floor strength area. The strength area features 30-inch concrete walls.
The complex now has two club areas for its luxury patrons on the first floor and fourth floor and there are new courtside seats for those members. Meyer said the department received around $22 million in private donations and from its new luxury seating areas.
According to information acquired by SourceMedia Group through state open records laws, 370 people publicly donated at least $1,000 toward the project, with totals exceeding $7.7 million. The largest public donations were submitted by the Howard Charitable Foundation for $1.5 million and Stewart G. Hansen gave $1 million. Other donations were made anonymously.
Iowa's administration and other staff members have moved into the new office complex, which was built like a boomerang. All of the coaching staffs except football and swimming have offices at the facility. Only the sports medicine area and the air handling system will linger into fall. Carver-Hawkeye Arena will not be air-conditioned, Meyer said, because of the cost.
Perhaps the most visually aesthetic area is the entrance, which boasts a rotating video wall. The video wall can show one large highlight film or split in four different video images for recruiting purposes.
"We think this is very exciting for our facility, which is something we have not had to date," Meyer said.
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