College of Ag grant money to go towards new campus facilities and renovations

Part of the 125 million will be used to construct a new livestock arena. It will be the new home to the K-State Rodeo, Cattlemen's Day events and other large events. (Render photos courtesy of Susan Schiff)

When Ernie Minton was appointed Dean of Agriculture in 2019, he said he knew Kansas State University’s agricultural facilities were in need of maintenance. 

“I went in knowing we had some really bad facility situations that needed to be addressed as soon as the funds became available,” Minton said. 

Minton said some of the agricultural buildings on campus are 60 to 70 years old, and that age shows.

“When we switch from air conditioning to heating in Shellenberger Hall every year, you can expect a major water leak, a major steam leak, or water in someone’s office,” Minton said. “These are definite markers to say ‘okay, something needs to be done, this building is failing.’” 

Jaime Knight, senior in agronomy, said he and other students noticed the lack of upkeep of facilities within the program.

“I work in the greenhouse and it’s really obvious because it is pretty old in a lot of places,” Knight said. “In a lot of the buildings there’s just really shoddy AC systems which makes it pretty uncomfortable, and I know there’s certain parts that are honestly just falling apart and need technological updates.” 

Susan Metzger, associate director for agriculture and extension, said the delayed upkeep at K-State has been a problem for colleges across the United States. It is a phenomenon referred to as “deferred maintenance.”

“Part of the thing about having historic facilities is they are beautiful, but they are old, and overtime they have deteriorated,” Metzger said. “Just like our own homes, they need upgrading.”

In 2015, Gordian, a business management company, conducted a nation-wide survey to assess deferred maintenance cost with data from 97 land-grant universities including K-State.

“The survey was conducted to get some data to quantify just what size of a problem this was,” Minton said. 

Minton said after the survey was published, the K-State College of Agriculture received word that they would be given $25 million from the state to address their facilities’ needs along with the opportunity to raise additional funds.

“That $25 million came without any match requirement, but then there was a larger bucket of $75 million of which we could apply for up to $25 million, but we had to raise $3 for every $1 we requested out of that fund,” Minton said.

In August 2022, Metzger, the project manager, said he coordinated with the KSU Foundation to reach out to stakeholders such as The Kansas Farm Bureau, the Kansas Livestock Association and Kansas Wheat.

“We pulled the leaders of those organizations together and we described this project and this once in a lifetime opportunity to seek funds and asked for their support and advocacy, and they were all on board,” Metzger said.

Earlier this month, Minton said he was informed that the College of Agriculture had reached its fundraising goal.  

“We finally got to $75 million and a little beyond that, so we turned in a challenge grant application to the Kansas Department of Commerce,” Minton said. “About a week ago, President Linton called saying that we received the $25 million.”

Minton said the total $125 million will be used to renovate Call Hall and Weber Hall, build Agronomy Research and Innovation Centers and construct a new livestock performance arena next to the Stanley Stout Center. 

“I think Weber is an example of a building that needs updates, and getting another animal showing facility is really good not just for the rodeo but also for the clubs on campus too,” Knight said. “Agronomy also getting a research building is exciting since some of our research efforts are being hampered by what we are working with.”

Metzger said she is hopeful that these updated facilities will help with student recruitment and retention.

“That [historical buildings] might have a bit of nostalgia for one generation, but it’s not the way we want to attract a modern student that might have an interest in food and agriculture,” Metzger said. “Creating spaces that look like what it is going to look like in the food and agriculture industry is what we want to create with our buildings.”

Metzger said this project has been in the works for 5-7 years and is finally coming together.

“President Linton joined the University a year ago … and we also had this unique opportunity with this challenge grant application, so it’s really just that we had a project waiting for that energy to be behind it,” Metzger said.

Dean Minton said he believes this is a starting point to continue addressing deferred maintenance within the College of Agriculture. 

“We are hopeful that the first project or two that we do will create some momentum so that we can continue to work on our facilities,” Minton said.

The new buildings and renovations are set to be finished by the end of 2026.

The proposed Agronomy Research and Innovation Centers will be located north of Campus.

The livestock arena will be the new home to the K-State Rodeo, Cattlemen’s Day events and other large events Minton said. 

The Call Hall and Weber Hall renovations will include the Global Center for Food & Grain Innovations to encourage the mixing of disciplines Minton said.