Early last month, at halftime of Kansas State football’s home matchup with Bowling Green at Bill Snyder Family Stadium, the hosts’ communications team passed out a packet to media members. This happens regularly, and the announcements aren’t always groundbreaking, so a few moments passed before a stir arose.
This one was, in fact, groundbreaking. Literally.
Athletics announced a $105 million capital project, the largest in department history, as part of the overall facility master plan that will benefit all 16 of K-State’s athletic programs.
At the time of announcement, the department had already raised more than $69 million of the $105 million total project cost, and construction on the first of four projects, the stadium’s south end zone project, is scheduled to begin in May 2020 following approval later this month by the Kansas Board of Regents. Completion is expected by the start of the 2021 football season.
The investment also covers construction of a new volleyball arena, Olympic performance training center and a new football indoor facility and outdoor practice field. Construction of the final three components, the announcement read, will begin once appropriate funding is committed and approval given by the Regents.
Athletics Director Gene Taylor had a lot to do with it.
“One of our top departmental priorities is to provide our teams the best facilities they need to compete for championships while doing so in a manner that makes sense for K-State, both financially and practically, and this project is consistent with that goal,” Taylor said in a statement. “What is most significant to us, and also to our tremendous donors who have already contributed to our fundraising goal, is that these projects will have a direct impact on each and every one of our teams and student-athletes as well as significantly enhance the experience for our fans, especially for football and basketball games and volleyball matches. We could not do any of this without the wonderful donors that we have at K-State and all of the fans that routinely fill our stadiums and arenas, and we are very appreciative of their support.”
The announcement came with questions. One of the most common, from fans: What about the parking spaces that the new football practice facility will eat up?
Minutes after the announcement, Taylor had an answer.
“Right now, we’re estimating about 400 parking spaces [will be lost],” Taylor said. “But we’ve also identified where we’re going to pick those up, and how we’re going to make sure the impact on our fanbase is at a very minimum, in terms of losing spaces. We have folks in the parking lot, some workers, some staff, others that we can move around and pick up some spots. Then we’ll recreate some spots in the lot that we don’t have right now.
“We think the impact is going to be minimal in terms of the total number,” Taylor continued. “Some people may get moved around a little bit, but we’ll make sure we have those answers as well before we start that project.”
John Winter, junior in civil engineering and a longtime attendee of K-State football games — even before becoming a student in the fall of 2017 — expressed more skepticism. Even if some of the spots are made up for, he said, who will it benefit, and at what cost?
“Trust me, I really, really hope the new practice facility will help out the players and make a difference,” Winter said. “But at the same time, I also hope that it will help them enough to make it worth it to lose all those parking spaces, right? So I guess it just comes down to the convenience of parking when this new facility is built, and hopefully it won’t be too in the way or annoying.”
A few more details on the $24.5 million practice facility that will sap up 400 parking spots: It would include a 200-by-400 foot practice field with a 65-foot roof clearance and accessibility to the Vanier Family Football Complex and football stadium. Additional features, according to K-State Sports, would include a limestone exterior to match the stadium’s and campus architecture as well as a new outdoor practice field. The current one is next to Buser Family Park.
Michael Everett, senior in business, expressed more confidence in K-State to accommodate fans on game days. If the staff couldn’t, Everett said, why would it tell fans otherwise?
“I actually really think it won’t be too bad once the new facility goes up and a few parking spots get lost,” Everett said. “So when I graduate, and if I come back for a game or two down the road, I don’t think I’ll have to worry about having to walk really far to get into the game.”