UNI-Dome – Northern Iowa Panthers
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Under the Dome
When one mentions a multi-purpose facility, it can conjure images of a cookie cutter, no-frills experience. The UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls, Iowa is nothing of the sort. It has seen plenty of conventions, concerts, and events. It has also been home over the past 40 years to NCAA Wrestling championships, various sports like softball, volleyball and basketball, and as a dream to thousands of Iowa boys across the state, the site of the Iowa High School Football Championships.
The field is called Sheriff Field, named after former head coach, Stan Sheriff. The late coach also has an events center on the University of Hawaii named for him. He was coach at UNI for the first seasons of the Dome before moving on to the University of Hawaii to be the athletic director where he remained until his passing in 1993.
The “dome” of the UNI-Dome is turning 40, but has undergone some metamorphosis over the years. It was once air filled until it collapsed due to a 1994 snowstorm. It was replaced with a more permanent metal roof that has had to undergo small renovations also, due to inclement weather and high winds.
Food & Beverage 2
Once inside the venue, concessions are abundant on each side. Choices are simple. “Dome Dogs” are $3.50, and are easily the worst value of the experience. The product is a small hot dog that one might get in an inexpensive pack of 8. Grilled bratwursts are $4 and there is a stand selling walking tacos for $5. A walking taco is taco meat served on top of an open bag of crushed Doritos.
There are three different sizes of popcorn ranging in price from $2.50-$4.50, as well as nachos, peanuts, pretzels and cotton candy for snacking. A regular soda is $3 and a 32 ounce soda is $4; water $3. For the sweet tooth, candy, cotton candy and caramel corn is all available in the $3.50-$4 range.
Access is gained most easily through the gates on either the west side or south side of the facility. Tickets can be purchased online or at the main ticket booth at the Dome. These games do sell well and buying tickets early is recommended.
Doors open 60 minutes prior to kickoff. Students have prime seating on the partisan side of the field, but in moving around, sight lines are solid and there really is not a bad seat in the house.
In 2008, an HD video board was installed. In 2014, this was replaced by a 100×27 foot video board overlooking the south end zone. The existing HD board replaced a quaint scoreboard. This adds immensely to the experience. Really clear views of replays is fantastic. The marching band warms up the crowd prior to kick and is excellent when they perform at halftime.
Want a little ambiance pre or post game? The College Hill section of campus is about a five minute drive northeast and is a good place to spend some time. The area also offers a few bars as well with game day specials. For those wanting an experience more from a chain restaurant, those can be found along Hudson Road and 1st Street.
Tailgating lots are packed at least three hours before kickoff, and it speaks volumes of the passion the Panther fans have. A local grocery store also sponsors a tailgate for $10/person that features food, the UNI Marching band, and plenty of entertainment.
Inside, the fans are knowledgeable and passionate. UNI is behind the spotlight of Iowa and Iowa State and plays in the FCS, but the fans show immense loyalty. The home winning percentage hovers around 80% over the last 40 years, so that loyalty is rewarded with consistent, winning football. The dome gets very loud and it echoes up by the concourse just about as well as it does on row 1 by the field.
Depending on the direction you are traveling from, the UNI-Dome is relatively easy to spot and get to. Highway 20 is the east-west way of choice, while Highway 218 is the north-south thoroughfare. If coming from the west, there are signs and a back route clearly marked that takes you right to ample parking on the west side of the dome. Just past that is Hudson Road, a north-south connector that is used by the students and fans making the walk in from campus.
Inside, the venue is fairly handicap accessible. The concourses are spacious. There are plenty of security guards and attendants to ensure a pleasant experience. If you are a smoker, then you are allowed to leave and re-enter by showing the hand stamp. If you are leaving the Dome itself, re-entry is not permitted.
Restrooms are easy to access and are clean. There are troughs in the men’s room and sinks that are accessed by tapping with one’s foot, so this is definitely an area where future renovations would be helpful.
Return on Investment 4
Tickets are $17.50 for children and $27.50 for adults. The price is extremely reasonable. Whether you are attending the game for a family outing, a parent child trip, as a football fan, or as the biggest of Panther boosters, the memories made are quite cost effective.
Program booklets are basic, but for a few dollars they are fine and feature plenty of color pictures. Above the north end zone is a very large supply of Northern Iowa Panther merchandise to choose from.
The tremendously friendly staff is numerous and handles a large crowd really well.
The UNI-Dome is a family-friendly gem in the state of Iowa. It is easy to get to and very affordable compared to the larger state schools. If you’re in the area on a autumn weekend, then this is a great destination.
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