Student Section Southbound

UNI Athletics unveils new Dome seating arrangement

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  • The above seating map for the 2023 football season was published in a press release by UNI Athletics. The darkest shade of purple represents Tier 1 tickets, with decreasing tiers for each lighter shade. Red represents red zone tickets, and the new band and student sections are labeled with text.

  • Panther Mayhem was a student group that organized promotions and created a lot of energy for the student section. The above image is from 2017, and the group fell apart with the onset of COVID-19. Student Body President Micaiah Krutsinger wants to try to bring the energy back to the student section during his term.

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The student section in the UNI-Dome is being kicked off of its home turf next football season — to a new location about 30 yards south.

UNI Athletics announced a new football seating plan on Monday, April 3. UNI students were sent an email that day describing the change and including a map of the new seating arrangement.

The seating plan relocates the student section, which was previously in sections Lower E, F and G between the 30-yard-lines and behind the Panther bench. The Panther Marching Band (PMB) was located in section Lower D.

The new map places students in sections A, Upper B and C, with the PMB taking Lower B. These sections are the farthest southeast seats in the Dome, stretching from the 20-yard-line to the back end of the endzone.

The seats students once had free reign over will be sold as premium seating for season ticket holders, mini pack purchasers and single-game purchasers. Season tickets for those areas are being sold at $149, with additional either $100 or $50 seat donations required to support the Panther Scholarship Club, which fundraises for UNI Athletics.

According to the UNI Athletics press release, the new plan also includes enhanced seating options for groups and enhanced red zone seating. Red zone season tickets are being sold at $69 for adults and $49 for youth. The red zones are located in each corner of the Dome, in sections equivalent to the new space delegated to the student section and band.

In an email to the Northern Iowan, UNI Athletics Director David Harris wrote that the motive behind this seating change is to provide more seating options for Panther fans.

“We wanted to create an opportunity for those who have interest in moving to a premium seating area,” he wrote. “The west side has a significant number of fans that have had their same seats for years. The east side was our only location to provide this opportunity.”

In the previous seating map, the highest tier of tickets could only be purchased in sections Q and P, on the west side behind the visiting team’s sideline. 

Harris also commented on the effort to enhance the fan experience at UNI football games, writing, “The standard of expectation for being a division one program is increasing. Part of meeting that standard is having the resources to field successful programs that provide excitement and entertainment for our students and fans. It is also critical that our students and fans have a great experience when they come to our games.”

He wrote that UNI Athletics met with members of Northern Iowa Student Government (NISG) and PMB administrators to discuss the decision and the impact it would have moving forward.

Justin Mertz, Ph.D., Director of the PMB, wrote in an email to the Northern Iowan, “While we wish this change wasn’t necessary, and we would stay where were usually have been if it were up to us, we understand the rationale behind the decision and will make sure that the PMB continues to perform at the very highest levels.”

As for concern over the band possibly not being as loud or engaged with the crowd in its new less-central location, Mertz wrote that he believes the move won’t impact the band too much.

“The PMB is a very large ensemble, and I am confident we will be able to continue to impact the whole building and make sure we keep creating a great atmosphere in the Dome,” he wrote. “We are hard to miss! We will be ready to do our job no matter the location.”

Mertz also noted that the new seating map integrates the band within the student section instead of being next to it. “It was and will always be our biggest priority to keep the PMB and the student section together, and this actually integrates the PMB and the student section even more than before, so I am excited to see what potential is there,” he wrote.

However, some PMB members can’t help but to feel that the game atmosphere may not be the same without the students in the center of the stands. Katherine Czarnik will be a drum major for the PMB next year.

“As part of the PMB, we perform for everybody at football games. However, since the student section was right in the middle, it always felt special to see how excited everybody there got about the marching band,” she said. “Not every school is as lucky to have students who love watching their marching band, and I always really appreciated that.”

Katie Carrico will be another drum major, and she expressed similar concerns.

“I wasn’t very excited about the change of seating for the band and students in the Dome. I think students’ motivation to attend football games is going to go down since they won’t get as good of a view of the game, and the Dome is ultimately going to feel more empty,” she said.

Rylee McNeal is going into her third year as a drum major. She noted that drum majors may have more of a challenge timing the band with the game given that they will no longer have a clear and central view of the field.

“With the old position of the band, the drum majors had the opportunity to have a clear view of the field and the players. This allowed us to be able to know when to play and the ability to have timely cutoffs,” she said. “Nothing feels better than getting the band to stop playing right as the placekicker kicks or when the center places his hand on the football to snap.”

The drum majors are not alone, with a number of students voicing disappointment over the decision on social media.

2023-2024 NISG President Micaiah Krutsinger wants to assure students that their voices do not go unheard. He stated that NISG was informed of the new seating plan on Friday, March 31, just three days before the public announcement. They were consulted by UNI Athletics for feedback and input on how students may react to the decision.

“Although we didn’t have a say on the change or anything like that, we do understand where the athletics department is coming from, especially for revenue,” Krutsinger said. 

“The student body definitely has the right to be disappointed. For us as students, we are kind of disappointed that we’re losing that spot as well, but there are just some instances where these things have to happen,” he said.

Although this decision was out of the hands of NISG, Krutsinger is optimistic about still being able to create a fun and engaging atmosphere for students at games.

“One positive that we can see out of the change is now that [students] are closer to the stairs, it can be easier for students to go onto the field for promotions. When they were in the middle it was kind of difficult, so that’s one aspect with the move that we can incorporate more students to participate on the field,” he said.

Part of Krutsinger’s platform during his run for student body president alongside vice president Liz Montalvo was planning to reinvigorate Panther Mayhem, a student group that operated on campus before the COVID-19 pandemic.


“[Panther Mayhem] really brought the energy to the student section, and they brought friends with them,” Krutsinger said. “They kind of died with COVID, so we’re wanting to bring that back to the student sections.”

During its time, Panther Mayhem was run by students as a way to further advertise athletic events and hold promotions for students. Their Twitter account was last active in April of 2020. It still has over 2,400 followers.

A similar group began in fall of 2021 specifically for UNI’s women’s soccer team. The Panther Soccer Prowlers are a student organization that supports the women’s soccer team by creating community, holding tailgates and organizing travel to away games. Krutsinger hopes to see that atmosphere and attitude about UNI athletics spread to other sports as well.

Krutsinger also wanted to emphasize that there are venues for students to voice their concerns about significant changes like this on campus.

“[Students] have the right to be disappointed, and they have the right to be vocal about it. If students want help with vocalizing or anything like that, NISG can be a resource for them,” he said.

“If there is a decision that ever disappoints the student body, don’t be afraid to reach out to NISG for help.”

UNI’s home football season is set to kick off on Sept. 9 against Weber State.