Iowa History Daily: On September 23, 1972, the University of Iowa officially renamed the home of Hawkeye football from Iowa Stadium to Kinnick Stadium. Named to honor Hawkeye Heisman winner Nile Kinnick, the stadium still stands today as a testament to one Iowan’s heroism.
The first home of the Hawkeyes stood on the Iowa River’s east bank. Known as Iowa Field, the complex hosted football and baseball in a unique riverside stadium. Spectators often climbed telephone poles to watch games or caught the interurban railroad line where conductors would slow down so riders could take in a few plays while passing by. The upper-portion of the west stands at the complex stuck out over the Iowa River, and as the popularity of Iowa football grew, a new home of the Hawkeyes was needed.
Starting in 1928, crews relied on horses and mules to move earth as they started a seven-month long construction process on a new home for Hawkeye football. Legend holds workers buried exhausted horses which died during the process under the North End Zone. The round-the-clock work schedule allowed the Hawkeyes to open the stadium with a 46-0 win over Monmouth College in October of 1929.
In 1943, tragedy struck when former University of Iowa Heisman Trophy winner Nile Kinnick died while serving in World War II. Training to serve as a fighter pilot, Ensign Kinnick perished after the Grumman F4F Wildcat he flew developed a significant oil leak. With the landing area overcrowded with planes on the USS Lexington, Kinnick performed a standard military procedure emergency landing in the ocean. He died in the crash on June 2, 1943.
Almost immediately following Kinnick’s death, fans and students started to advocate for renaming the stadium in his honor. In November 1945 the University of Iowa student body voted to rededicate the structure as "Nile Kinnick Memorial Stadium.” The unofficial vote carried no weight, and officials declined to rename the stadium. However, in 1972 a previous supporter of the student effort, Cedar Rapids Gazette sportswriter Gus Johnson, brought the idea back to life. The movement gained momentum, and officials agreed to officially rename the stadium Kinnick Stadium in September of 1972. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar