MANHATTAN — Throughout the past football season, Kansas State athletic director John Currie went out of his way to shake hands with the many fans and donors that helped make possible the massive renovations at Snyder Family Stadium.
The West Stadium Center was a hit. Combined with a new rowing center and a state-of-the-art basketball training center in the same complex, the Wildcats had quickly built $125 million worth of new, privately-funded facilities that were on par with, or better than, many of their peers.
Currie wanted to show his gratitude. It seemed like a good time to reflect. As things turned out, it was also a good time to push for more.
“Their reaction was not, ‘Wow, this is great. This is the best we are ever going to do,’ ” Currie said. “It was, ‘Wow, this is great. What are we going to do next?’ They showed a lot of eagerness to take that next step.”
K-State is wasting little time pursuing that next step. A new wave of athletic facility upgrades is already on the way, including a complete overhaul of the north end zone of Snyder Family Stadium, where the football team’s offices and training facilities reside. K-State also wants to add new videoboards and sound improvements to its football, basketball and baseball venues.
The planned upgrades, which have were approved by the Kansas Board of Regents last week, carry a projected cost of $62 million, again paid for by donors.
K-State’s athletic complex feels new. It is about to feel even newer.
“There have been extraordinary improvements made across our conference,” Currie said. “I think the Big 12 and the SEC have the best facilities in college football.
“Iowa State, Baylor, Texas Tech, TCU and Oklahoma State all have extraordinarily improved their football training facilities, weight rooms and locker rooms. We still function very efficiently in the Vanier Football Complex, but that is something we need to address at some point.”
Currie said the north end zone also needs to be renovated from a fan-experience standpoint. That area needs permanent restrooms and upgraded seats.
When will K-State break ground on that project? Currie isn’t sure. Fundraising is underway, and preliminary designs have been discussed, but setting a timetable for construction is complicated.
In many ways, K-State’s football complex is the most vital athletic building on campus. Not only does it house K-State football offices, locker rooms and weight rooms, it is home to the athletic department’s academic center. It’s where student-athletes go to study and Currie holds large staff meetings there.
Razing the facility and building a new one in its place, which Currie admits is a possibility, would be a major inconvenience.
“We always have to be cognizant of the fact we are using our facilities every day,” Currie said. “We really have to figure out the timing and the least-disruptive time to do construction and to move people around. That is part of the logistical challenge, and when we do renovations we will have to relocate some people for a significant amount of time. That is a complex question.”
Currie says all design options are on the table, including a structure that would enclose the stadium. He likes the current atmosphere of the north end zone, with fans patting players on the back as they walk off the field and into the locker room at the end of games.
Raising the stadium’s capacity beyond 50,000, however, is not a priority.
“We have shown we are at a very appropriate size,” Currie said. “It is a lot more fun to have a packed house of 50,000 than it is to have 60,000 seats and have 5,000 of them empty.”
K-State fans might see new videoboards before that project truly takes form.
Currie wants to replace the current videoboard at Bramlage Coliseum, which is dated, with a state-of-the-art model you might find in a NBA arena. He promises HD-quality video and new stat capacities.
At Snyder Family Stadium, he hopes to replace both videoboards. Though the videoboard atop the north end zone is among the oldest and smallest in the nation, he talked more about updating the larger videoboard atop the south end zone.
“That board was clearly big when it was put up, but it is time for something bigger,” Currie said. “The boards have to fit the stadium. We aren’t necessarily going to try and outdo Jerry Jones or anything like that, but I believe our fans would really enjoy bigger, brighter boards, with HD feeds at all our venues.”
Though no timetable has been established for installing new videoboards, they are expected to go up no later than 2017 and as soon as later this year, depending on fundraising.
For now, Currie says K-State’s next wave of facility enhancements is in a “preliminary stage.” But it is on the way.
“We are excited about taking this next step, but we are going to stay fiscally responsible,” Currie said. “We would look to add everything at once, but we will probably use a phased approach. We have been working with a rolling master plan for a number of years and we will continue to do so.”