Bird’s-Eye View: University of Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium Gets HD Facelift
There were clear skies and a stillness in the air in Iowa City last Sunday evening, the kind of calm that seems foreign in a town known for its raucous fall afternoons.
Inside historic Kinnick Stadium, a building that has stood since 1929, the stands are empty, but the lights are ablaze, and the quiet Midwestern evening is quickly disrupted by the rip and roar of the University of Iowa’s newest crown jewels: a set of new high-definition video displays.
Construction crews have spent all summer renovating the old building, and, on this night, the boards and their new high-definition infrastructure were undergoing their first full test.
For Mike Moriarity — a 1985 graduate who has been video director for the Hawkeyes since 1992 — it’s a special moment. As he looks across the historic stadium at the bright, flashing images, his eyes widen like a kid who just came across the largest Christmas tree he’d ever seen.
“It just blew my mind how great it looked,” he said. “I think our fans are going to be shocked when they see this.”
When 70,000+ fans pack into Kinnick for the Hawkeyes season opener against Northern Illinois on Aug. 31, the Iowa faithful will be treated to a revamped video experience.
At the south side of the stadium, a 122- x 31-ft. all-HD board by Daktronics was installed where the former SD screen formerly stood. The addition comes in the form of an unusual structure on the stadium’s north side: in the northwest and northeast corners of the end zones are a pair of 38- x 21-ft. HD boards connected by a long ribbon board measuring 8 x 381 ft.
“It obviously gives the fans a much better-quality video experience at Kinnick Stadium,” says Moriarity. “The videoboards are bigger, there’s more of them, and we’re going to be able to deliver multiple replay angles at the same time. These are things we’ve never been able to do before. The in-game experience for the fans is going to be greatly improved.”
To power the board, the Iowa athletic department entrusted the help of integrator Alpha Video to build a new HD control room inside Kinnick Stadium. The control room is outfitted with a Ross Video Tritium switcher (64 in/32 out), a Chyron graphics engine, an Evertz Dreamcatcher replay system (which has 4K capabilities), AJA frame syncs and record, and a Ross Video Blackstorm server. Inside the stadium bowl, Hawkvision will shoot with three Sony NEX FS-100 cameras.
According to Moriarity, the new videoboards create an intimate feel to the large stadium. Despite seating nearly 71,000 fans, Kinnick has only one level, and the stands are right up against the sidelines. That layout has given it a reputation for not having a bad seat.
“The stadium is pretty closed in,” says Moriarity. “So, not only are these boards bigger, they’re not really that far from the fans.”
The upgrade is especially exciting for Moriarity. His department does everything from programming videoboard shows at Kinnick and at Carver-Hawkeye Arena (home to men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball) to creating coach’s shows with football coach Kirk Ferentz and men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery. Hawkvision also works with BTN’s Student U program to offer production opportunities to work on live streams of Iowa’s Olympic sports.
Since Moriarity arrived as a staff member in ’92, he has seen the Iowa athletics program undergo a complete evolution. From the days of no video screens at all, he has helped oversee the installation of the first Jumbotron in the mid ’90s, its upgrade to an SD flatscreen in the 2000s, construction of a production studio and control room in Carver-Hawkeye Arena two years ago, and now the full HD upgrade of Kinnick and the athletic department infrastructure.
“We’ve gotten better and better each time, and, each time we had a change like that, it’s been exciting,” says Moriarity. “But this one is by far the biggest, most extreme change that we’ve ever done.”
It’s a brand new stadium experience that Moriarity hopes will have Hawkeye fans begging the question…