End zone project revitalizes Jack Trice Stadium

Jack Trice Stadium’s new south end zone nears completion with just over a week before the first game. Iowa State will kick off the season against Northern Iowa on September 5 at 7 p.m. 

Max Dible

It took 25 years, a total of $60 million and the largest cash gift in the history of Iowa State, but at long last, the south end zone at Jack Trice Stadium has been enclosed by a spectacularly imposing addition.

“I feel honored that I happen to be the [athletic director] that’s here when it’s happening, but this is far greater than any one person and any one set of individuals,” said ISU athletic director Jamie Pollard. “This is a dream and a vision that people have had for a long time about this place, and it’s just really cool to be part of it happening.”

The stands — individual seats as opposed to bleachers — line the gradual rise to the addition’s balcony with cardinal red. The new videoboard looms above the two-story addition, facing its counterpart above the Jacobsen building on the field’s north end.

Inside the end zone club, walls decorated with murals depicting Cyclone glory create an ambiance for club members who can lounge at multiple bars lined with flat-screen televisions. Concession alcoves are cut into the sides of the lobby.

Up two flights of stairs, light from walls of windows illuminate a similar floor plan, with one major difference: A bird’s eye view of Jack Trice and its now 61,500-seat capacity — the third largest venue in the Big 12 — as the edge of the ISU campus stretches off in the northern distance.

“It’s just another major step in a continuum of success,” said ISU athletic director Jamie Pollard. “You don’t change the history of a program overnight. We’ve talked about that. We all want to win and we all want to win today, but it’s generational, and especially in the sport of football.”

That continuum began when Pollard took the reins a decade ago. Since then, Iowa State has spent $160 million in funds and donations to add to and upgrade its athletic facilities. The south end zone project represents well over a third of that investment.

Former ISU grad Ben Bunge of the Weitz Company oversaw the mammoth project, one that took 13 months to complete and required an “army” of workers.

“I would tell you that we peaked at 220 guys on site,” Bunge said. “Over 17 other different contractors and probably had 50-75 subcontractors. So you are probably looking at 1,000 different people approximately on site.”

But the construction’s genesis dates back further than that. It all began with an email in December 2014.

Pollard was set to pitch the addition to Roy and Bobbi Reiman — the project’s benefactors — after the final game of the 2014 season at Texas Christian.

TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte and Pollard joked Wednesday about the timing of the pitch — coming on the heels of a 2-10 season that ended with a 55-3 drubbing at the hands of the Horned Frogs.

But seven days later, Pollard got the word. And that word was GO.

“The actual yes came by an email from Roy Reiman a week later,” Pollard recalled. “When he sent me an email on that Friday morning that said, ‘Jamie are you sitting down? If not, please sit down. We’re going to do it.'”

Fans can catch their first glimpse from inside Jack Trice at 7 p.m. Sept. 5, when the Cyclones open up the season under the lights against Northern Iowa.

While Pollard said he was excited for that first game, the next home contest against Iowa has an even larger claim on his attention and enthusiasm.

“I love it. I think that it’s really neat how it worked out and I think it’s even better how it will open during a night game,” Pollard said.

“I think it will really feel so much more electric because of that …. When our friends from the east (the Hawkeyes) come over on Sept. 12, (they’ll) know, ‘little brother’ is growing up.”