Friday, September 15, 2023

A key athletics project will be considered for final approval by the Board of Regents, State of Iowa, next week that would mean major improvements for two University of Iowa athletics programs—women’s gymnastics and the Spirit Squad.

A new Gymnastics and Spirit Squad Training Center would be built on the Hawkeye Campus, adjacent to the women’s soccer and field hockey facilities on Prairie Meadow Drive. The $20 million project—paid for by athletics department gifts and revenue—will include practice space, athletic training space, and offices.

Map of planned gymnastics training center

The women’s gymnastics team has historically practiced in the Field House, which is outdated and not adequately sized for the program. The Spirit Squad does not have a dedicated practice facility and has historically practiced in one of the Field House gyms.

“The existing gymnastics practice space does not reflect the status of the gymnastics program, which has recently achieved historic success in the Big Ten Conference and raised its national profile,” says Rod Lehnertz, senior vice president for finance and operations. “Likewise, the Spirit Squad is long overdue for a dedicated space of its own.”

The women’s gymnastics team finished last season ranked No. 26 nationally, reaching as high as No. 15 during weeks two and three. Coach Larissa Libby has led the team to 23 straight NCAA Regional appearances, either as a team or individually. The 2024 season will be Libby’s 20th as head coach, and 24th with the program. She is a three-time Big Ten Coach of the Year.

“Coach Libby has done a remarkable job leading our gymnastics program. I am excited for these incredibly talented student-athletes with the creation of a dedicated training facility,” says Beth Goetz, interim Henry B. and Patricia B. Tippie Director of Athletics Chair. “Our Spirit Squad, dance team, and Herky spend countless hours representing our athletics program and the institution. This facility will create some efficiencies for both programs.”

Renovating the existing space in the Field House was determined to not be a viable option. The university found the proposed location to be the best solution because of existing and future programs in the area.

The project is part of the university’s 10-year facilities master plan.

The Board of Regents will meet Sept. 27–28 in Iowa City.