The Cyclones will be looking to repeat the success they had at the 2017 Liberty Bowl when they face Washington State in the Alamo Bowl.
Des Moines Register
Ruth Ehler’s touching email hit my inbox not long after the Alamo Bowl selected Iowa State earlier this month.
“My mother-in-law [Marilyn] would write this if she was still alive. In 1996, she complained that the Hawkeyes were going to her son’s dome stadium for their bowl game. She said, ‘When Iowa State makes it to the Alamodome, I’m going to write the Des Moines Register and tell them about the Iowa State student who worked on it.'”
“Since then, the Hawkeyes have been there two more times. Sadly, she never got a chance to write the letter.”
Iowa State is playing No. 13 Washington State on Dec. 28 at the Alamodome — the stadium for which her son Jeff served as the chief engineer during its construction more than two decades ago. Buried deep within the massive $186 million facility, was her son’s inscription to prove it.
ISU Go Cyclones 79, 82
That’s what Jeff Ehler proudly scratched — his alma mater’s initials and the years he received degrees in Ames — into a slab of wet cement as work started on San Antonio’s well-known sports stadium.
Talk about a small world.
Not only will 25,000 or more Iowa State fans storm the Alamodome for the game against Washington State, but they’ll also be visiting a building designed by one of their own.
“I always thought that if we played there, we somehow had to let the players know that an Iowa State Cyclone designed the structure,” said Ehler, who grew up in Ankeny and now lives and works in Omaha.
Thus, Ehler’s Iowa State reference, which has since been covered up because of additional concrete pouring since the building opened in 1993. But the message, however, still resonates.
“Let Matt Campbell’s players know that a Cyclone designed it,” Jeff Ehler said, “so the Alamodome won’t be exactly foreign land to them.”
This daunting project scared this Cyclone
Ehler finished his undergraduate degree in civil engineering in 1979. His master’s in structural engineering followed in 1982 — thus the numbers “79” and “82” he scrawled into the concrete.
“He was a great, great student,” said Max Porter, a retired Iowa State professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering. “He’s another example of one of our students becoming an exceptionally good professional.”
Ehler would have joined the state of Iowa workforce, had something to his liking been available. Instead, he landed in San Antonio shortly after graduation.
“It was slim pickings for a job in the Midwest, so I ended up working for a well-established Texas good-ol’-boy firm,” Ehler said.
San Antonio city fathers started talking about the possibility of a domed stadium, and once money was secured, the engineering firm for whom Ehler worked — W. E. Simpson Company — was hired.
“I remember when my boss, John Wall, came into my office and said, ‘Well, we got the Alamodome — and you’re going to lead the charge,'” Ehler said, in his early 30s at the time. “I’d never done a project that big. It scared me to death.
“I worked on it one day at a time — kind of like Matt Campbell’s ‘trusting the process.’ It was very rewarding to see it get built.”
ALAMO BOWL COVERAGE
A mother’s dream come true
Wall liked Ehler’s creativity, his work ethic and his computer savvy. That’s why he picked the Iowan and former Cyclone for the first big job of his life.
“Jeff was more computer-literate than I was,” Wall said. “The irony of that, is the reason I got the job with the firm — I was more computer-literate than the older generation.”
So while Wall was the project manager, Ehler was his chief design engineer, whose mission was to ensure no obstructed-view seats.
“Jeff did most of the heavy lifting on the design,” Wall said. “He did a lot of the computer analysis. He’s a great engineer. I’ve got a world of respect for him.”
Ehler and his wife returned to the Midwest after his part of the project was completed — and before the Alamodome was finished.
“There was something about the beauty of the four seasons,” Ruth said.
So they relocated in Omaha, where Jeff works for an engineering consulting group. On Dec. 28, the family will be seated someplace in the building Ehler designed — rooting on their beloved Cyclones.
“For 25 years, we wanted nothing more than to go back to his dome and watch the Cyclones play,” Ruth said.
What would mom say if she was still around to see her Iowa State football dream become reality?
“She’d be ecstatic and proud,” Jeff said. “I remember her saying that if Iowa State ever made it to the Alamo Bowl, that she was going to brag to everyone that her son built the Alamodome.”
Well, Marilyn: Consider it done.
Iowa State columnist Randy Peterson has been with the Register for parts of five decades. Randy writes opinion and analysis of Iowa State football and basketball. You can reach Randy at email@example.com or on Twitter at @RandyPete.
Source: Des Moines Register