First Kinnick concert to kick off Dallas Clark nonprofit
Dallas Clark, native Iowan and former Hawkeye and NFL football player, talks about the line-up for the Back Porch Revival concert in Kinnick Stadium coming in August 2016.
Iowans love their natives who become national stars, especially in sports and entertainment. Now some famous Iowans want to love the state right back.
Former pro football star Dallas Clark has created the Native Fund, a new nonprofit to help Iowans in natural disasters and assist Iowa youth and military veterans. He says actor Ashton Kutcher and pro golfer Zach Johnson are involved with its formation.
The nonprofit was officially launched Saturday via a public announcement at the Iowa Hawkeyes football game: Kinnick Stadium, built in 1929, will hold its first ever concert to benefit the fund.
The Aug. 27, 2016, concert will be headlined by country music star Blake Shelton and two other “big names” to be announced later, Clark said. It also will include up-and-coming musicians: Nashville’s David Ray, Morgan Frazier (of this season’s “The Voice”) and Tucker Beathard, who is the brother of Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard and recently signed a recording contract.
Clark, a former Hawkeye who played 11 NFL seasons and helped the Indianapolis Colts win a Super Bowl in 2007, is the nonprofit’s founder and executive director.
“It’s kind of one of those things that God put in my heart,” Clark said in an exclusive interview with the Register earlier this week.
The idea had festered in his mind since the disastrous Iowa summer of 2008, when a powerful tornado leveled the town of Parkersburg and floodwaters filled more than 10 square miles of Cedar Rapids. He knew while growing up in the tiny Iowa town of Livermore that Iowans' greatest strength is in helping one another.
Why not create a way to assist Iowans helping Iowans, filling in the gaps where government disaster relief agencies leave off?
His analogy: When a family member dies, the survivors' homes are filled with casseroles and concerned folks for two weeks. The third week is when they need help.
After Clark retired last year and moved back to Livermore with his wife and three children, ages 6, 4 and 9 months, the idea was “itching at me,” he said.
He wanted to instill in his young children the ethic of helping other people.
“You don’t even take pride in it. You just do it.”
He reached out to Kutcher and Johnson.
“We want to do the best we can do with the ‘pedestal’ we have been given because I played football, Zach plays golf and Ashton acts and produces.”
Clark also approached Gary Barta, Iowa’s athletic director, about his idea to launch the fund.
A concert at Kinnick seemed like a big dream, given the constraints in the old stadium. And there were noise concerns regarding University of Iowa Children’s Hospital, across the street. But if they could pull it off and pack 56,000 people into the stadium, Clark said, “it would be the biggest show ever in the state of Iowa.”
Barta agreed, and the problem-solving began.
Dilemma: How to get stage into Kinnick?
“This concert has a thousand moving parts, but like the wrestling meet (at Kinnick in November), we are trying to think outside the box,” said Mark Jennings, associate athletic director.
The first hurdle was figuring out how to get a stage on the football field. The access to the field is a small tunnel, which in the past prevented having concerts with big stages.
Gary DeWaard of Forest City, who was hired to produce the concert, hatched a plan to use cranes to lift large pieces of the stage over the stadium rim and on the field.
Another issue was how to prevent the booming noise of a concert from disturbing folks at the nearby hospital, said DeWaard, who helped create the popular Tree Town Music Festival in Forest City. Three sound experts did a test at the hospital earlier this summer.
“The good news is we don’t have to solve anything,” DeWaard said. “The stadium solves it.”
The sunken field is surrounded by the stadium bowl, while at the stadium ends, there are no issues with nearby structures, he said.
The field turf will be covered, so the 8,500 people expected on the stadium floor will not do any damage.
Last year was a big year for stadium shows, with nearly 100 nationwide, the most since 1994, according to Billboard. But stadium shows have been rare in Iowa until Jason Aldean played the UNI-Dome at the University of Northern Iowa this past March.
Dallas Clark, native Iowan and former Hawkeye and NFL football player, explains his idea for the Native Fund and the Back Porch Revival concert at Kinnick Stadium.
Iowa State University last held a concert at Jack Trice Stadium in 1999, with George Strait, Tim McGraw, Dixie Chicks and Kenny Chesney.
ISU doesn’t actively pursue concerts at its football stadium and has been approached by a promoter only once in the past eight years, said senior associate athletic director Chris Jorgensen.
He said concert promoters today want the venue to put the money up front to pay entertainers and assume the risk if it doesn’t draw enough of a crowd to cover the cost, which ISU is not willing to do. He said Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines has also drawn away many of the large-venue acts in recent years.
For the Kinnick concert, the Native Fund is leasing the stadium for the day. Jennings said the university will recoup costs of security and other logistics with the proceeds.
“We aren’t doing it for the exposure or the money," Jennings said. "We are doing it because it’s a good thing to help Iowans in need.”
But might this first venture lead to more concerts at Kinnick?
“If all goes well and we don’t have any problems and the sound works for the hospital, we would entertain doing it again,” Jennings said.
Dallas Clark, native Iowan and former Hawkeye and NFL football player talks about what being able to bring a concert to Kinnick Stadium means to him and just what it takes to make that happen.
Country music meshes with Iowa, Clark says
Clark is convinced the Kinnick concert will succeed because of the charity aspect — and the music.
Landing Blake Shelton as the headliner was a perfect fit, Clark said. He’s both a music star with 20 No. 1 hits and a TV celebrity on “The Voice.”
Shelton was in the top 10 in touring country acts in 2014, according to Billboard, and DeWaard said Shelton’s appearance at Tree Town made that day the biggest of the weekend.
Clark had other reasons. Country music fits the persona of Iowa and reflects the values Iowans hold in high regard, he said.
“They sing about cornfields, pickup trucks and gravel roads. It’s a natural fit,” he said. “We chose the name ‘Back Porch Revival’ because it hearkens back to grandma-and-grandpa type of living, before cellphones, before social media and before the world got itself in such a big rush. Life was simple, and your word was your word, and you helped your neighbor.”
Clark, 36, drives a Ford F-250 pickup and often has country music playing in it. A tight end, he played in Indianapolis, Tampa and Baltimore, retiring after the 2013 season with 505 career receptions. He used to tell his fellow pro athletes about Iowa, how its essence never leaves you.
“An Iowa sunset is an Iowa sunset," Clark said. "You can’t duplicate that. You really appreciate the little things that we have that are near and dear to our hearts.”
He said the nonprofit is busy researching the ways it can help other Iowans, but it’s a work in progress. He has long been involved in the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which fulfills wishes for children diagnosed with life-threatening conditions, and he wants to find other ways to help Iowa youth. He also described himself as a patriot and wants to assist Iowa veterans.
His goal is to create an organization that gives a large percentage of its funds directly to those in need and not to overhead. If the concert goes well, the group may consider doing it annually.
He sought Kutcher and Johnson because of their ties to the once-flooded Cedar Rapids area, where they grew up. The two are busy with their careers, but their roles in the organization are expected to include promotion and fundraising, Clark said.
Kutcher had this to say about the nonprofit in a prepared statement:
“Iowa has a great resource in its people who know how to look for solutions to problems and have a genuine compassion in making other people’s lives better. Native Fund is a solution to specifically help the people of Iowa in areas where a disparity exists between need and available assistance.”
Johnson declined to comment about his limited role to date.
Clark said he was also inspired by the charity of four fellow NFL athletes from Parkersburg, which was devastated by the 2008 tornado, and their coach, the late Ed Thomas.
The impact Thomas had on one community showed Clark the “powerful ripple” that one man can have in making Iowa a better place. “That whole community is a beautiful example of what Iowa is,” he said.
It all starts at Kinnick Stadium, a special place to him. He mowed its grass as a summer job in school and played memorable games inside it. To make the first concert in Kinnick be a way to help others, he hopes, will create its own powerful ripple.
ABOUT THE CONCERT
WHAT: Back Porch Revival concert
WHEN: Aug. 27, 2016
WHERE: Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City.
ARTISTS: Blake Shelton, David Ray, Morgan Frazier, Tucker Beathard and other acts to be announced.
TICKETS: $39-$239, going on sale 10 a.m. Oct. 7. A presale for Hawkeye season ticket holders is Oct. 5.
PROCEEDS: Go to the Native Fund, a nonprofit organization of Iowans helping Iowans.