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Hawkeyes look to build new wrestling facility

Iowa wrestlers get introduced before wrestling Ohio State (Photo/Darren Miller, HawkeyeSports.com)

The University of Iowa Hawkeyes -- currently the top-ranked Division I wrestling program in the nation -- is planning to build a top-flight wrestling facility, according to multiple media reports, and confirmed by a press statement issued by the school Tuesday.

"The University of Iowa plans to build a new wrestling training facility to meet the needs of one of the most successful athletic programs in the country," according to the University of Iowa statement.

"Pending approval by the Board of Regents, State of Iowa, the UI will begin planning a new facility adjacent to Carver-Hawkeye Arena that supports Iowa Wrestling's championship standards and validates Iowa City's reputation as the greatest wrestling city in the world."

"The proposed facility, funded entirely by gifts, will be located south of Carver-Hawkeye Arena …"

The new two-level, 37,000-square-foot facility would feature new workout facilities, training areas, locker rooms, and office space. It would connect via tunnel to Carver-Hawkeye Arena, the 15,000-seat facility where the Hawkeyes wrestle … and home to the current wrestling training facility named in honor of the program's legendary former coach, Dan Gable.

The new wrestling facility -- with an estimated price tag of $17-$20 million -- would be paid for by gifts to the UI athletics department, which is self-sustaining, and separate from the university general fund.

The school has taken the first step towards making this dream facility a reality by submitting a request to the Board of Regents of the State of Iowa to proceed with project planning. The request before the board seeks permission to proceed as soon as next month … although the proposal does not include project start and completion dates.

Here's how Chad Leistikow, long-time sportswriter, painted a word picture of the proposed facility in his column in the Iowa City Press-Citizen: "It would offer 37,000 square feet of operating space on two levels and would include men's and women's locker rooms, a wrestling space about twice the size of the current room, a strength-and-conditioning center, therapy rooms for recovery, offices for the coaching staff and a 'Hall of Champions' space that honors a rich Hawkeye wrestling history that includes 23 NCAA championships and 84 individual national titles."

By contrast, here's how the Cedar Rapids Gazette described the current digs for the top-ranked Iowa Hawkeye mat program: "The Dan Gable Wrestling Complex inside Carver includes training rooms, three mats, a locker room, sauna, weightlifting facilities and retractable bleachers. Those spaces are bordered by men's and women's basketball and volleyball, the room is (quoting Board of Regents documents), 'limited, outdated and needs to be upgraded to assure continued success of the program.'" https://www.thegazette.com/subject/sports/hawkeyes/iowa-looking-to-upgrade-its-wrestling-facility-20200128

The Board of Regents will be meeting Wednesday, Feb. 5 in Urbandale, Iowa just outside Des Moines. According to Leistikow, "Given the groundswell of financial support that has quietly developed in the past two years, passage of the agenda item should be a formality."

Leistikow continued, "'A small group of really committed fans have really stepped up,' said University of Iowa associate vice president for athletics development Kevin Collins, an Iowa City native and the fundraising lead for the facility project.

"The current Dan Gable Wrestling Complex, located on the second floor of Carver-Hawkeye Arena, is 'very adequate right now,' Collins added, 'but it doesn't match our championship ambitions or culture.'"

In the press statement issued by the University of Iowa Tuesday afternoon, head wrestling coach Tom Brands weighed in on the proposal, saying, "This is an important step forward for the Iowa Wrestling program. We put constant thought and evaluation into everything we do, and we do it with great energy to make sure we are operating at the highest level. We are thankful that we are able to continue moving forward."

Carver-Hawkeye Arena has been home to the Iowa wrestling program -- as well as other major intercollegiate indoor sports such as men's and women's basketball, volleyball, and gymnastics -- since it first opened in January 1983.

In recent years, a number of college wrestling programs have moved into new or substantially upgraded, state-of-the-art wrestling practice facilities, including Iowa's Big Ten rivals Ohio State and University of Minnesota.

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