The Iowa High School Athletic Association has announced financial support for a renovation of the University of Northern Iowa's domed stadium, which hosts a variety of state high school athletic contests.
"We appreciate our relationship with UNI and the opportunity to host the semifinals and finals of our State Football Championship in the UNI-Dome," said IHSAA executive director Tom Keating in a statement. "The 'Road to the Dome' has been part of our postseason for nearly 50 years and we are excited that the UNI-Dome renovation will enhance the player and fan experience for years to come. We are happy to be involved with the project."
UNI director of athletics David Harris also expressed enthusiasm for IHSAA's support of the project.
"For nearly a half-century, our partnership with the IHSAA has given high school student-athletes an unmatched opportunity to compete at the highest level in a first-class facility," said UNI Director of Athletics David Harris. "The aura and the atmosphere of the UNI-Dome really elevates the stakes and provides an environment for students and their families to experience Iowa high school football history. We're extremely grateful to the IHSAA for their long-standing partnership on this event and their commitment to the future of the UNI-Dome."
Since 1976, the UNI-Dome has played host to the IHSAA football playoffs, drawing an average of 25,000-plus fans each year. Over a two-week period in November, 28 teams ranging from the Eight-player division to large Class 5A schools battled to be crowned a state high school football champion. The 2022 playoffs drew an estimated 52,000 fans.
The playoffs are one of the largest and most recognizable events held in the UNI-Dome, contributing to an estimated $17 million in economic impact generated by the facility annually.
"For many Iowa families, the IHSAA playoffs are their first opportunity to experience the great things we have to offer in the Cedar Valley and at the University of Northern Iowa," Harris said. "This in turn benefits local businesses and the broader community."
The IHSAA's financial investment supports a three-phased $50 million renovation of the UNI, included in the first phase of renovations is replacing the UNI-Dome's nearly 25-year-old fabric roof in the summer of 2023, reconstructing the west entrance and concourse, creating new and increased restrooms, and providing new and expanded suites.
Phase two of the project will include bowl upgrades and structural improvements along with resurfacing the indoor track. Among the bowl improvements included are new seating, wider aisles, handrails and greater ADA seating. The final phase of the project will include updates to the UNI-Dome sound system, marquee signage and visual identity.
Phase one is estimated at $20 million with over half of the goal already raised. Phase two is also estimated at $20 million while phase three is estimated at $10 million. The UNI-Dome renovation is a key initiative of the university's Our Tomorrow comprehensive campaign and will be funded primarily with private support.