Kinnick Stadium is seen from above in Iowa City on Thursday, June 7, 2018. (The Gazette)
IOWA CITY — Iowa City High football players are part of a group of school students cleaning up Kinnick Stadium the day after the Iowa Hawkeyes home football games.
It’s a tough job, that’s for sure. Picking up empty popcorn buckets, liquor containers and the like is no fun, it’s just a way to raise money for their school and program.
Funny how Saturday morning will be a totally different affair. Someone else will clean up after playing Kinnick.
“I think that added to their excitement,” said City High vice principal Philip Hansen with a laugh. “They can play, go there and not work.”
There really isn’t any excitement to add for City High and rival Iowa City Liberty. They open their respective seasons by playing on the big stage, in the big stadium, in what is called the “Clash at Kinnick”.
Sophomores will kick off at 5, with the college game to follow. This is the first high school game at Kinnick Stadium since 1980, when Cedar Rapids Washington and Bettendorf played a playoff game there.
“At the end of the day, it’s going to be a great environment,” Hansen said. “We’re looking at doubling the crowd we normally would have (at City High’s Bates Field) and having a great atmosphere.”
The genesis of this game dates back to last fall.
Hansen, who served as City High’s activities director last year, said the idea of playing at Kinnick Stadium was broached by members of school administration, district administration and others, with a question that arose: would it be something that would be realistic?
Conversations with the University of Iowa began and it was determined that, yes, it was realistic. More conversations followed about the settings and sheer logistics of the potential event.
Hansen pointed out how City High uses the Iowa cross-country course, trained and played baseball games at U of I’s Banks Field, so there’s a prior relationship there. Iowa also hosts part of the state baseball tournament, so it has some experience with high school events.
“It was just one of those things that obviously being in Iowa City, having (Kinnick) right next door, our student-athletes, they clean up the stadium on Sundays after games. They do the seat backs, spend a lot of time there,” Hansen said. “So it’s one of those things where you’re always trying to build the relationship with the university.”
Friday worked perfectly on many levels. Iowa won’t begin its football season until next week, hosting South Dakota State.
“A positive for us as well is that it really allows us, as they say, to grease the engine and get things going for next weekend,” said Josh Berka, assistant director of sport for the ‘Iowa in charge of the management of sports events and camps. “It’s helping us get some aspects of game operations in place this week, so we can ride and battle through next week.”
It just so happens that City High’s week one opponent was Liberty was the capper here.
“It was a team effort,” Hansen said. “To be honest, the one thing that excites me about City High is (we’re) always looking for that next opportunity for the kids. We knew we had this great vibe nearby, great stadium, great venue. And it worked.
“I’m glad everything went well.”
Hansen praised the work Berka has done to help put everything together. Iowa charges City High a $5,000 rental fee, with the schools teaming up to take care of things like concessions, security, and policing.
Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for students and tickets are available online.
“In a perfect world, that offsets the costs of everything we take on as a district,” Hansen said. “But at the end of the day, it’s an invaluable experience that the kids are going to have. And that, I think, is above all else. We’ve had support from building administrators to district-level administrators to the board of directors to make this experience a unique experience for our students.”
Hansen said more than 250 students from City High will participate in Friday’s event, ranging from football players and managers to members of dance and cheerleading teams and members of groups. Groups from each school will be seated in one of the end zones at Kinnick, with fans seated in the west stands only, sections separated by school.
Berka said players will not be able to use the locker room, but will be able to exit the locker room tunnel and onto the pitch. Video content from City High will be shown on the stadium’s jumbotron.
Berka and Hansen were asked if they considered this a one-time thing or if it could happen again.
“I think the priority is to start well tomorrow night before we start looking ahead. Let’s make sure we get it right,” Berka said. we’ll learn all through tomorrow night. So let’s make it as successful as possible, and then we’ll go back to the drawing board and see if it’s a one-time event or if it becomes an annual thing.
“It will be great fun to watch these kids have this type of experience on one of the most hallowed grounds in the state of Iowa.”
“We’ll see how it goes on Friday night. In the future, we would like to offer this experience to more children,” he said. “The goal might be to use that in the future and get Iowa City West involved. Maybe it’s nearby schools like Clear Creek Amana, who go out of their way to create a great experience for our students.
“There have been a lot of moving parts, a lot of planning has kind of been done. But we’re incredibly excited to see that come to fruition on Friday night.
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