MANHATTAN — Upon entering Kansas State’s new football complex and seeing the lavish, $65 million facility for the first time, Elijah Lee could not contain his excitement.
“I don’t know if it is possible for anything to be better than Christmas, but it felt better than Christmas,” the sophomore linebacker said. “Going through this facility makes you feel so grateful about what you have. I just want to thank the donors and former players that made it possible.”
Everything about the complex – a 132,000 square-foot building named after longtime K-State benefactor Jack Vanier and his family located on the north end of Snyder Family Stadium – is an upgrade. It boasts a long list of enhancements, including a larger locker room, a state-of-the-art weight room and hallways that light up in purple. There is even a barber shop.
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The improvements also provide north end-zone fans with better sight lines, a larger video board and a new welcome to campus from Kimball Avenue.
“The building is huge,” junior quarterback Joe Hubener said. “From the outside on the street it is massive. It still hasn’t sunk in that this is our new facility. It so different and new. I love it.”
Current K-State football players aren’t the only ones impressed. Recruits like it, too.
Five recruits have toured the complex since its completion, and four have made non-binding commitments to play for the Wildcats. They are offensive lineman Zach Shackelford, of Belton, Texas; linebacker Jimmy McKinney of Oologah, Okla.; defensive end Jordon Robertson, of Dallas; and offensive lineman Blake Hickey, of Godley, Texas.
All four praised the new facility. So did Tom Killilea of Lenexa, the lone recruit that didn’t commit, by calling it “unbelievable” on Twitter.
“All the kids we have gotten in here we have pretty much all gotten commitments from,” said Taylor Braet, K-State’s director of football recruiting. “It’s been awesome. They come in and tweet out all the photos of the new facility, then about a week later you get a commitment. It has been exciting.”
It may be a while before that excitement fades.
“This is going to help us out tremendously,” Braet said. “With the new facility and what all we have now, it should help us in recruiting a great deal. It has put us now where we should be, with our facilities matching the way our team plays. I really think this is going to take us to the next level.”
K-State administrators had that thought in mind when they began planning the facility.
They wished big while also paying attention the small details, constructing a new building that impacts the entire athletic department. The structure provides everything from office space to meeting rooms to an academic learning center, a team theater and a nutrition center.
“Our vision was to give our student-athletes everything they need to prepare not only for the next four years but the rest of their lives,” said Clint Dowdle, associate athletic director for administration. “You see that as soon as you walk in and see the weight room on your left and the student-athlete enhancement facility on the right. We have sold that story.”
Ask players what they like most about the complex, and answers are different. Receiver Deante Burton is fond of the new team’s new theater room. Defensive back Danzel McDaniel likes the weight room. Lee is a big fan of the locker room.
Hubener points to an abundance of electrical outlets.
“We had one wall outlet in each room in the old Vanier,” he said. “You were fighting with 30 other guys to get your stuff plugged in. Having your own outlet is huge.”
More is on the way. The current renovations are simply the first phase of improvements on the stadium’s north side. K-State is trying to raise $15 million to install enhancements such as a second video board and a permanent locker room for visiting teams on the northeast side. The previous complex had a visitors’ locker room, but this year guests will use a temporary space within the new complex.
Dowdle said fund-raising efforts for Phase 2 have been strong. The hope is to secure enough donations for it to be completed by the start of the 2016 season.
“One thing this really brings is expectations,” Burton said. “You can’t really lay an egg with a facility like that.”
Fan Appreciation Day
At 5 p.m. Saturday, K-State is inviting fans to Snyder Family Stadium to watch the final hour of football practice. At the conclusion of practice, coach Bill Snyder and team captains will address the crowd. They will then participate in a one-hour autograph session on the field.