Saying goodbye to the Hawkeye Express

For over 15 years, the Hawkeye Express has been a method of transportation for Hawkeyes in Coralville to ride in style to Kinnick Stadium.


David Harmantas

Fans walk up the steps to Kinnick Stadium after alighting from the Hawkeye Express before a football game against Miami (Ohio) on Sept. 3, 2016.

Alexandra Skores, Managing Editor

The beloved Hawkeye Express will no longer be a tradition for football fans on game day.

In a release from Hawkeye Sports, the University of Iowa Athletics Department and Iowa Northern Railway Company made the decision to end the railway experience on Wednesday. 

The Hawkeye Express has been in operation for over 15 years, serving Hawkeye fans for a 10-minute ride to Kinnick Stadium.

“The Hawkeye Express has been a wonderful part of our Hawkeye football gameday experience,” Matt Henderson, UI senior associate athletics director said in a release. “While it was a difficult decision to make, we all agree it is the right decision. This experience would not have occurred without the Sabin family and their Iowa Northern Railway Company.”

In 2019, the Hawkeye Express passenger train serviced an average of 3,700 fans in Coralville. Due to the pandemic and restrictions in seating in Kinnick Stadium, the train has not been in operation for the 2020 season. 

As previously reported in The Daily Iowan, the Hawkeye Express was first conceived in 2003 after the end of the football season. Game-day ticket revenue was approximately one-third of the Athletics Department’s revenue and with increasing congestion around the stadium on game day, there was concern that attendance would suffer.

Iowa Northern Railway President Dan Sabin, Big 12 Conference Commissioner Bob Bowlsby and former Iowa Associate Athletics Director Mark Jennings came together in 2004 with a unique idea to transport over 5,500 fans over to the football stadium on game days. 

According to the website, the Hawkeye Express began operating in September 2006, moving families from Kinnick Stadium to satellite parking stadiums. Fans would meet in the parking lot of the Coralville IHOP on 25th Avenue to catch the train to watch the Hawks. 

A ticket stand would be found behind the restaurant where golden tickets would be sold to passengers. 

“A lot of time and energy goes into this endeavor, but our staff and volunteers have truly enjoyed this experience and seeing the enjoyment of the fans,” Josh Sabin, Iowa Northern Railway Director of Administration said in a statement. “There is not a good time to close the book on this type of experience, but this decision made sense to both parties.  We are grateful for all the fans who made the train part of their gameday, truly.”

The Hawkeye Express is owned by the Iowa Northern Railway Company and runs on the track owned by the Iowa Interstate Railroad, which operates between Council Bluffs and Chicago. 

Fans for the 2021 season are now encouraged to utilize the public parking options around Kinnick Stadium.