The secret’s out: Life-size Willie the Wildcat sculpture in K-State Student Union

A Willie the Wildcat sculpture was revealed in the K-State Student Union on March 29, 2017. (Kaitlyn Alanis | The Collegian)

A big, purple Kansas State secret was revealed Wednesday afternoon in the K-State Student Union.

Only 20 minutes before the surprise reveal at 2:30 p.m. the Union tweeted, “We’ve seen lots of you admiring the new Spirit Wall, but we feel like there’s something missing…”

No other details were revealed.

Then, at 2:23 p.m., the union tweeted again: “Lots of secrecy happening here.”

Included in the tweet was a photo of a big “Willie the Wildcat-sized” object covered in a K-State purple blanket.

Willie the Wildcat and about 30 people filed in front of the Spirit Wall to be some of the first to find out one of the Union’s best kept secrets.

“I think I can guarantee Willie will be speechless once he sees … he will be at a loss of words,” Bill Smirga, executive director of the Union, said.

The secret was a $35,000 life-sized Willie the Wildcat sculpture sitting on a bench, made possible through outside donations to the Union Excellence Fund.

“Some days are more fun than others and this is one of those days,” Smirga said before revealing the secret to those in attendance.

Audrey Taggart-Kagdis, Union director of marketing and community relations, said with the Union renovations that have been going on for almost two years, new things are always popping up. She said Wednesday felt like the right time for a surprise, especially since Open House is this Saturday and students are just coming back from last week’s spring break.

“We really felt like this was a good time to welcome everyone back from spring break and have a nice surprise so that as students are walking through the building over the next several weeks of the semester, they’ll stumble upon it,” Taggart-Kagdis said.

Smirga said the addition of this sculpture and bench to the Union is “one of the coolest things” to have happened since renovations began almost two years ago.

“Before renovations started, one of the things we knew about this building was it really didn’t speak to the spirit of K-State,” Smirga said. “In fact, you could stand in the middle of the building before renovations and look around and you wouldn’t even know you were in K-State. You wouldn’t see anything that related to the spirit or the history, hardly any purple in the building.”

Smirga said one of his goals was to bring in more K-State spirit, and he hopes that as people now look around the building, they will see that changes have been made to encompass the K-State family spirit.

Taggart-Kagdis said they had hoped to include a “photo-op” spot, and they looked for inspiration from other universities.

The biggest inspiration, Taggart-Kagdis said, came from a life-size buckeye statue at Ohio State University.

“But we wanted to make it fun and warm, which is how we view K-State, so we went with a full-color sculpture,” Taggart-Kagdis said. “And we felt like we wanted it in the building — in the heart of everything — instead of outside.”

Kyle McGuire, junior in marketing and a Union student ambassador, said he was very impressed with the surprise and was excited to be a part of the reveal.

“I thought it was a great idea,” McGuire said. “It’s a great photo op with our mascot and student Union location.”

Hi, I'm Kaitlyn Alanis, former news editor for the Collegian and a May 2017 graduate in agricultural communications and journalism. I have never tried a hamburger and I hate the taste of coffee, but I love writing stories and sharing what I learn with our readers. By writing for the Collegian, I can now not only sing along when the K-State Band plays "The Band is Hot," but I also know that most agriculture students did not grow up on a farm, how to use an AED to save someone's life and why there is a bust of MLK Jr. outside of Ahearn Field House. Thanks for reading!