In 1991, Kansas State put down a new Astroturf at KSU Stadium; a $3.3 million press box and $2.2 million indoor facility were added in 1993; a $1 million Academic Learning Center and new mega-JumboTron followed in 1996.
Looking back, those were the years that the Wildcat football program took off going from five wins, to nine, and even 10 before the unprecedented run of four consecutive 11-victory seasons from 1997 through 2000.
At that time K-State’s football facilities were among the best in the Big 8 Conference, if not the country.
Now, flash forward two decades, and as former KSU athletics director Max Urick says, “Our stadium now sticks out at the wrong end. We stuck out in 1993 at the right end, but people came in and copied us and have gone beyond us.”
Kansas State is doing something about that with the recent announcement of the $75 million West Stadium Center at Bill Snyder Family Stadium, or “The New Northwest Gateway to the K-State Campus.”
“This will put our facility back to where we need to be,” said athletics director John Currie. “We were the showcase in the Big 8 in 1993, but we’re clearly not at the top from a facility standpoint now. This is a tremendous leap forward and one that will make a huge difference. The stadium is neat when it’s full and everyone is Wabashing, but it doesn’t send the same message of excellence during all the other days of the year.
“The view our fans will see coming in from the west side of the stadium will give an immediate link to the image of our beautiful campus, which is limestone and classic architecture,” said Currie.
The West Stadium Center has been in the formulating stages for over a year with Currie saying, “I’ve yet to talk to any K-Stater who doesn’t believe it’s time to take a step forward. Universally, there’s an understanding that there is a need to advance our football stadium.”
Currie stresses that the advancements will touch each and every K-State fan.
Sure, there are 20-, 16- and 12-person suites totaling 40, and yes, there are the new club level seats (800) and Loge seating (140, 36 boxes of 4), but other enhancements will include going from 100 restroom fixtures to over 200, and concession points of sale will leap from 14 to 50.
“Our goal is for the best fan experience in the Big 12,” said Currie. “We’ll be replacing restrooms and concession areas constructed in 1968 which are completely inadequate.”
Also improved will be a street-level all-sport ticket office, a larger gift store, and a Hall of Honor showcasing the history of the 16 Wildcat sports.
While the WSC will grow from the 30- to the 30-yard line to endzone-to-endzone, Currie said the depth of the facility will not escape the current footprint of the press box and entry way into the stadium.
“It will be the same space, but used much more efficiently,” said Currie, who said the stadium capacity would remain at roughly 52,000.
Efficiency will be stressed, plus the new facility will be more pleasing to the eye with the elimination of the four light poles that will be taken down and replaced by lights attached to the roof of the new WSC.
In a continued goal for a world-class student-athlete experience, there will also be the addition of a training table, which will also have availability to the general student body and Manhattan community.
And, Currie said, “We will have a University suite that can be used jointly by President (Kirk) Schulz, our Alumni Association and our Foundation on game days, but also will be available to contributors and industry leaders for a first-class environment. What we currently have at the stadium is completely inadequate.”
The WSC is the second of a six-phase project that started last year with the replacement of the stadium turf and adding eastside restrooms.
Among the items in Phase 3 will be a strength and conditioning center and a kid zoned family playground in the southeast corner of the stadium; Phase 4 could include potential condos, plus office and retail space on the south side; Phase 5 would have the creation of a 360-degree concourse on the north end; and, Phase 6 would be an update of the existing Vanier Complex and training facility.
Over one-third of the $75 million in funding for Phase 2 has been secured. Currie said there is a need for between 50 and 60 percent in funding before bonds are issued and ground is broken. The intention is to break ground this summer and have the WSC available for the 2013 football season.
“We know it’s possible because we have such passionate fans and a broad based support foundation,” said Currie, who emphasized that there would be no tax dollars or tuition going toward the project. “People are excited about the leadership from Kirk Schulz, and we have coach (Bill) Snyder who has clearly transformed intercollegiate athletics at K-State and in the city of Manhattan.
“Our people believe in our program and what has been done over the last 20 years, but they’re not satisfied,” said Currie. “We’re not done. We have more work to do. This facility is about the entire K-State community and our image. This will make us as good as anybody in the conference.”