The University of Iowa athletics department and the Iowa Northern Railway jointly announced Wednesday that multiple circumstances have led to the decision to discontinue the Hawkeye Express game-day commuter rail service to Kinnick Stadium.
As reported by the Quad City Times, reasons for spiking the unique shuttle service, launched in 2004 as a means to ease stadium traffic, include the potential of continued social distancing requirements, a need for future equipment upgrades and overall increases in operating expenses.
“While it was a difficult decision to make, we all agree it is the right decision,’’ Iowa senior associate athletics director Matt Henderson said in a statement. “This experience would not have occurred without the Sabin family and their Iowa Northern Railway Company.’’
Prior to the pandemic, in 2019, an average of 3,700 fans boarded the Hawkeye Express at a makeshift station adjacent to parking lots on the western edge of Coralville.
“We have had a lot of fun running this operation since 2004,’’ said Josh Sabin, director of administration for the Iowa Northern Railway. “A lot of time and energy goes into this endeavor, but our staff and volunteers have truly enjoyed this experience and seeing the enjoyment of the fans.’’
Sabin's father, Dan, collaborated with then Iowa director of athletics Bob Bowlsby and Mark Jennings, a former Iowa associate athletics director, to establish the game-day rail service, which had been a popular means of getting to Kinnick Stadium for fans in the 1950s.
For a fee, passengers received round-trip transportation to a landing at the base of a stairway adjacent to a parking lot on the southwest side of the stadium. The train began making the 10-minute trek from Coralville to Iowa City three hours before kickoff on each game day and would resume shuttling fans back to Coralville starting at the beginning of the fourth quarter of each Iowa home game, with service continuing 90 minutes after games ended, according to the Times.
In announcing the decision, Iowa indicated that fans will be encouraged to use public parking options located in areas around Kinnick Stadium.