FAYETTE — Upper Iowa should be proud as Peacocks about its new nest.
The school has completed a $7.5-million transformation of its football field. The grand opening of Eischeid-Harms Stadium came two weeks ago.
UIU hosts Minot State today at 3 in the second game in its swanky new digs.
“You see the renderings and you go through the whole construction process and everything,” said Upper Iowa Athletics Director David Miller. “But you lay eyes on that final product, and it certainly exceded expectations. When you laid your eyes on it, it was ‘Wow.’”
Wow is right. Construction at the stadium began in June 2011 after Steve Harms and his wife, Diane, donated money for the project.
Harms is a former Upper Iowa football player who made his wealth in crop insurance. Diane Harms is a former cheerleader at UIU.
“We are so fortunate to have Steve and Diane Harms step forward the way they did,” Miller said. “Very rarely do you see someone who believes in you so much and is so much in your corner that they are willing to write the entire check. That’s pretty special.”
The new-look stadium includes weather turf, lighting, a walking track, increased seating and a large “professional grade scoreboard” with large-screen video. There also is a new press box that includes three private suites, one of which goes to the Harmses, of course.
Simply put, this place is beautiful.
“Certainly gets us into the top echelon in Division II in regards to football facility,” Miller said. “That was something that we really needed to do.”
“Number one, it’s the excitement it generates,” Upper Iowa Coach Tom Shea said. “Numer two, for the kids it’s big time. We’ve moved to Division II, went up a level, and now the stadium. There are bigger stadiums, but I don’t think there are any better aesthetically than ours. You’re proud to bring kids in, recruits in to take a look at it. I think it’s going to help recruiting. They all look at scholarships. But if scholarships are equal, I think we’re in the ballpark with (other) people. I think this stadium is going to help.”
Upper Iowa continues to adjust to D-II life, though Miller believes his entire athletics program is close to competing equally with the rest of the Northern Sun Conference. UIU takes a 1-2 record into its game today after a 55-31 win last week at Minnesota State-Moorhead.
“I firmly believe we have the right coaches in place. I believe we have the right student-athletes, who are here for the right reasons,” Miller said. “We are very close. My first three years here, I talked to our athletes about the need to be competitive. This year, I said I was done talking about being competitive. Our new expectation is to win.”