We arrived into Des Moines Airport, Iowa on Wednesday night. We picked up our rental car and fired up the GPS. I also google mapped our route on my iPad – the GPS was telling us it would take about 1 hour and fifteen minutes and the iPad was telling us it would take 10 hours and 42 minutes. I was starting to panic a little bit thinking we’d booked accommodation in the wrong state.
We stopped and asked a local and he said our destination was about 30 miles so the 1 hour fifteen made sense. As we were driving along the time on Google Maps was decreasing at quite a rate and then I worked it out. I had set Google Maps to walk mode so the 10 hours and 42 minutes was how long it would have taken us to walk from Des Moines Airport to our accommodation at The Harvester Golf Club. I’m so pleased we took the rental car option!
The main reason for our visit to Iowa was to catch up with Nick Voke, a friend of ours from Manukau Golf Club who is over here on a golf scholarship at Iowa State University or ISU.
On Thursday afternoon we drove into Ames where the ISU campus is based and met up with Nick at the golf performance facility. The rest of the team was practising so we couldn’t check the facility out so we decided to check the rest of the campus out instead. The campus is like a little city in it’s own right – it is home to about 33,500 students and 1,900 staff. It is located on a lush 2,000 acres.
Founded in 1858, it was coeducational from the start. Iowa State’s academic offerings are administered today through eight colleges, including the graduate college, that offer over 100 bachelor’s degree programs, 112 master’s degree programs, and 83 at the Ph.D. level, plus a professional degree program in Veterinary Medicine.
ISU is classified as a Research University with very high research activity by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The university is a group member of the prestigious American Association of Universities and the Universities Research Association, and a charter member of the Big 12 Conference. ISU is ranked among the top 50 public universities in the U.S. and is known for its degree programs in agriculture, engineering, and science. ISU receives nearly $300 million in research grants each year.
Like all universities in the USA there is a strong orientation around sport. ISU have a very good basketball team who finished in the top 16 in the USA in 2014. And no US university would be complete without the football team or grid iron team as we know it. The ISU sports teams are nicknamed the “Cyclones”, a name that dates back to 1895. That year, Iowa suffered an unusually high number of devastating cyclones (as tornadoes were called at the time). In September, the Iowa State football team traveled to Northwestern University and defeated that team by a score of 36-0. The next day, the Chicago Tribune’s headline read “Struck by a Cyclone: It Comes from Iowa and Devastates Evanston Town.” The article reported that “Northwestern might as well have tried to play football with an Iowa cyclone as with the Iowa team it met yesterday.” The nickname stuck and the Iowa State team had made a name for itself.
The school colors are cardinal and gold. The mascot is Cy the Cardinal, introduced in 1954.
Nick showed us around the sports stadiums and facilities – they are out of this world. Their football stadium holds a capacity crowd of 54,800 and they have announced they are expanding it to 61,000. To put it in context, Eden Park has a capacity of 50,000. In 1975, the stadium’s playing field was named in honor of Jack Trice, Iowa State’s first African American athlete and the school’s first athlete to die of injuries sustained during a Cyclone athletic competition.
The gym, physio, rehab rooms and high tech gadgets these athletes have available to them are very impressive. They even have this under water treadmill with video technology so you can see how the injured athlete is moving. One of the football stars was on the treadmill when we went in there – he had injured his AC in the previous weekend’s game. A lot of the facilities are built with funds donated by alumni members. They display a list of the donors in the facilities and it is nothing for someone to have donated $2 million.
The general student population are also provided with gym facilities. The Lied as it is known was a three story building with two indoor running tracks that are not quite 400 metres in circumference. They have racquet ball courts and a ping pong table which will come in handy over the next few days : ) They also have a wrestling facility as ISU have a pretty good wrestling team.
We also drove through the Greek quarter where all the Fraternity and Sorority houses are – there are approximately 40 houses accommodating 2,000 students. There were some nice houses and they looked just like they do in the movies. They usually have a house mother or father who runs the house and organises the catering and cleaning staff. You have to go through a number of interviews and activities to be accepted into the house. Apparently it only costs a little bit more than typical student apartment living.
Next stop was the tennis court – Steve and Nick had regular matches back in NZ and Steve always managed to win. Nick is now super fit and has befriended the ISU girls tennis team so has been having some lessons. He did warn Steve that the re match wouldn’t be pretty. He was right, the old man struggled and got played off the court! The fitness and lessons paid dividends. It didn’t help that it was about 31 degrees and very humid – I was sweating just watching them!
We finished the day with a nice dinner out at Aunt Maude’s a restaurant in Ames. Nick’s girlfriend Sarah joined us and we had a lovely meal.