MANHATTAN — The project was supposed to cost $75 million. It ended up costing closer to $90 million.
You won’t hear John Currie apologize for that increase, though. As far as the Kansas State athletic director is concerned, that money was well spent.
Just look, he says, at what has been added onto Snyder Family Stadium in the past year. The Wildcats were able to implode the old press box and replace it with a state-of-the-art facility that stretches from end zone to end zone and towers over campus, creating a new look to the Manhattan skyline. It has been dubbed the West Stadium Center, and it features an expanded concourse, larger bathrooms, loge boxes, club-level seats and suites to go along with a new press box.
And every inch of it has been spruced up with famous quotes from football coach Bill Snyder, murals of historic K-State players, depictions of famous plays, photos from memorable victories and interactive touch-screen monitors.
“A lot of the time when you are involved in a major construction like this you have to cut, cut, cut as you go and pay for steel and get into those sort of things,” Currie said while giving a tour of the facility Thursday morning. “We added. All the graphics and touch screens you see are going to increase the fan experience. There is some really cool stuff in here.”
K-State fans will get their first look at the new Snyder Family Stadium on Friday. The school will hold a one-hour dedication ceremony at 11 a.m., which will feature the unveiling of the final add-on to the West Stadium Center — a statue of Snyder that was installed Wednesday and is currently covered by a large wooden box. After the festivities, the Wildcats will take on North Dakota State at 7:30 p.m. in the opener for both teams.
It will be an important day at K-State. In some ways, it is the start of a new era.
“It will be an historic day for Kansas State and our fans and certainly our student athletes and our coaches and the whole state of Kansas,” Currie said. “… None of this would be here if it wasn’t for Coach Snyder. This is a continuation of his efforts if you look at where we have come from.”
When Snyder came to K-State in 1989, the Wildcats had one of the worst football programs in the nation. Today, they are coming off a Big 12 championship and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl. The West Stadium Center represents how much things have changed during his long tenure.
Playing in front of it for the first time will be a memorable experience.
“It’s impressive. It’s amazing,” said K-State receiver Tyler Lockett. “Just seeing the difference between that and our old stadium, I think it brings a lot of excitement. The crowd noise will be three, maybe four times louder than it was because now the press box is able to keep the sound within the stadium.
“It will help us a lot. It will help us with recruiting. It will help us on the field. It will help us overall.”
The most significant improvement, according to Snyder, might surprise you.
Though he is a fan of the renovation, and earlier this week thanked everyone from Currie to donors and construction workers for making it happen, he is most fond of the new student-athlete training table located on the north end. For the first time, K-State football players will be able to eat meals in the same place where they practice and study.
“I have always said the training table aspect of it is really beneficial to our program,” Snyder said. “When we have a training table open here, our players are self-contained. They don’t have to travel back and forth across campus for meals. They can do it all here. They have their academic learning center here so they come here for study table and tutoring help and they get all their lifting in downstairs.
“They have a real compact schedule, and it’s not an easy life as a football student-athlete. Anything we can do to help them manage their time is well worth it. I would project this probably saves them somewhere between 45 minutes to an hour a day. That doesn’t mean a lot to some. To them it means a great deal.”
Currie is happy to supply K-State athletes with the improvement. He remembers talking about football stadium renovations with university president Kirk Schulz when he interviewed and recalls Snyder telling him he wanted a new training table in their first conversation.
Turning it all into reality wasn’t easy. The majority of the project’s construction occurred in the past eight months, with hundreds of workers showing up in hard-hats seven days a week.
“It was certainly a huge challenge,” Currie said. “We broke ground on this facility 16 months ago. We blew up the old structure eight months ago. It has been a challenge, but we hired the right team to get it done … It went smoother than many of us expected.”
Now K-State can look forward to the future. A sellout crowd will attend Friday’s game, enjoy the stadium enhancements and watch a new team take the field.
The grand opening will be a day-long celebration.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the reaction of our fans when they flood into the concourse,” Currie said. “The main level concourse is a tremendous space that benefits every single one of our fans in some way. It is going to be a hall-of-fame atmosphere.”