Manhattan’s newest concert venue — just the beginning?

This historic building on Yuma Street has been converted into a concert venue, acting as a landmark for local and traveling bands. (Lily Murray | Collegian Media Group)

It’s a crisp Saturday in autumn. The football game just concluded, and the Kansas State Wildcats are excited to take on the night. The options include an Aggieville outing, bars downtown and perhaps a house party. K-State student Kaitlyn Woicke, senior in marketing, said the variety seems to be lacking.

“Students do the same things every weekend. It gets old every once in a while,” Woicke said. 

Derek Richards, real estate broker and owner of the AG Press building, and Eric Kleiner, promoter and Richard’s business partner for The Press, said they recognized the need for variety and options for residents in Manhattan. Richards said he purchased AG Press, located on Yuma Street, in April of this year, and he has big dreams for it.

“This is a project I have been looking to buy for the last five years, actually,” Richards said. “I wanted to buy it originally for the purpose of bringing culture to Manhattan. A lot of warehouses in bigger cities are being renovated for the purpose of culture, food halls, and activities. Just a way to maximize this already old beautiful space and use it for a different purpose.”

Part of this expansive four acre property is dedicated to the already-operational outdoor concert venue, The Press. Kleiner said the aim is to create a rock and roll venue, while also welcoming a variety of genres. With a capacity of over 500 people and one successful live show completed, Richards and Kleiner maintain positivity for the growth of their venue. 

“One thing that we want to promote: we have five acts in October,” Richards said. “We have the whole gamut, from rock and roll, easy listening, to a little heavier, to EDM. At the last event, we had a Kite’s food truck here, and alcohol. I think the unique thing here is that we are in a central part of Manhattan and we just have a lot of space to work with.”

Richards had the opportunity to speak directly with students and open a dialogue on what they would like to see brought to Manhattan.

“I taught at an entrepreneur class on campus in the business building and I asked a room of 200 students, ‘what do you guys want?’ and they basically described that they want Yard Bar, but bigger,” Richards said. “They want a place to go where they have space and feel comfortable being in a different environment. We are hoping to create a more welcoming place, or a place to just have variety. It’s good to have variety in the town.”

Sam Bartlett, a junior in entrepreneurship and innovation, said he thinks another locale in Manhattan is essential. 

“I love live music and I like going to concerts, so it would be cool if there was a place right here in town,” Bartlett said. “I think it would bridge the gap between Aggieville and downtown.”

Annie Wehling, senior in human development and family sciences, said she feels a venue like The Press could benefit the town as well. 

“My friends and I have been talking about that,” Wehling said. “We have struggled after games and stuff recently just finding something to do that isn’t 100 percent packed. So a larger venue like that would be really fun to go to.”

The long-term plan for the entire property encompasses more than just The Press, Richards said. 

“The interior of the building will not get done for at least another 2 or 3 years,” Richards said. “Some main ideas are to have a venue that can host weddings, rock shows, and different types of events. You know, as it grows, can we put retail? Can we put a brewery? Can we put a restaurant? Can we put a stage on the outside and astro turf the entire back yard? For yard games, there is so much square footage. There are a lot of things that could happen.”

A new concert venue is being built off Fort Riley Boulevard. Interior shot of the building from September 7, 2022. (Elizabeth Sandstrom | Collegian Media Group)

Richards said he is welcome to ideas, especially from residents and K-State students. He intends to create a space for community use, and said he feels anyone who has a dream could begin to build it at AG Press. 

“AG Press is available for ideas to create here,” Richards said. “I want students that feel like they want to start something, they could start that here.”

Bartlett, with his entrepreneurial skills and connection to Richards, said he hopes to see one particular idea become a reality.

“I met Derek through our church and slowly got to know him,” Bartlett said. “Someone suggested for him to do a climbing club. I am super interested in rock climbing. I told him I would be interested in talking about that and what it would take.”

Bartlett said he is passionate about the project and is aiming to combine his climbing knowledge with Richards’ business experience. 

“It is super up in the air right now,” Bartlett said. “It could easily go down into something concrete if we think it is wise financially from a market standpoint.”

Overall, Richards and Kleiner said they seek to benefit the neighborhood of Yuma and the city of Manhattan with a refreshing variety of new sounds and experiences.

“The economics down here are usually pretty poor, so I think it is important to be conscious and think about how this location can benefit this area, bringing culture and just bringing a good vibe,” Richards said. “There is a lot of beauty around here. I believe a lot of people, when they think of Manhattan, they think of Aggieville and downtown, so we are hoping to create a third district to do something else.”

More information about upcoming events at The Press and future plans for the building are available on their website