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Thursday, October 3, 2013

KU turns attention to stadium revamp

An overhead view of Kansas University's Memorial Stadium shows the Anderson Family Football Complex, at left, and the practice fields at the bottom.

An overhead view of Kansas University's Memorial Stadium shows the Anderson Family Football Complex, at left, and the practice fields at the bottom.

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With construction crews making progress on Kansas University’s new $39 million soccer, softball and track venue known as Rock Chalk Park, KU’s athletic department has moved into more serious planning stages for a renovation to Memorial Stadium.

“We hope to have the planning phase complete by the end of basketball season,” KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger told the Journal-World on Wednesday.

It’s a work in progress, but Zenger said it covers far more than just the aesthetics of KU’s football-stadium improvement, for which nearly a dozen different ideas and visions have been kicked around during the past several months.

Chief among the many factors that go into planning a project Zenger calls the biggest KU will undergo for the next 50 years is the department’s ability to afford it. While no budget has been set, Zenger said the department is involved in an ongoing and in-depth review of its financial capabilities, the results of which will give Zenger and his staff a better understanding of what is needed to turn plans to modernize Memorial Stadium into reality.

Typically, major stadium renovations are funded through bonding, borrowing and fund-raising. All three remain on the table for Kansas. While the final price tag and the project’s completion remain distant visions, the planning stage has been a project unto itself, and Zenger has maintained a couple of priorities throughout the process.

In late September, KU officials met with architects from Kansas City-based HNTB to begin working on the design concepts. In addition, Zenger has worked closely with Cliff Illig, a KU graduate and co-founder of Cerner Corporation, which has played a huge role in the increasing popularity of the Sporting Kansas City soccer club and its state-of-the-art stadium.

“That is an award-winning facility, and we want to walk closely with them in the redesign of Memorial Stadium,” said Zenger, referencing the importance of enhancing the fan experience in the stands, with modern technology and through social venues. “There is added pressure to do it right because this isn’t just any old stadium. This is also a memorial, and it holds special significance for so many people for so many reasons. We want to move it into the modern era while paying homage to the past at the same time.”

To that end, those involved with the project have taken time to pay close attention to other collegiate renovation projects and focused on ways to make KU’s football experience more intimate, which includes removing the track around the field.

With the heavy lifting of funding Rock Chalk Park and the DeBruce Center, which will house James Naismith’s original rules of basketball, now in the past, every move Zenger makes brings KU closer to getting the Memorial Stadium facelift under way.

“We don’t need to reinvent the wheel,” Zenger said. “We need to look very seriously at all of the other models out there and come up with something that works for us, something that is both more modern and unique to the University of Kansas, just like Allen Fieldhouse.”

Comments

shelleysue 6 months, 3 weeks ago

I will be ecstatic if I can sit through a game without feeling I have to roll into a fetal position to avoid getting knocked around by people in front and back of me. A little more room would be fabulous. And some of this other stuff too! Just don't lose the game day feel - it might be different than most but that's what makes it awesome.

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JHWKDW 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Why not have a parking garage over where the lot is?

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Chicagohawk97 6 months, 3 weeks ago

The Stanford stadium renovation is an almost perfect model for what we need to do here. For those that are not familiar, pull up google images of the old Stanford stadium and compare with the current Memorial. Same setup - low sloping grandstands with wide footprint; track around the playing field; bowl at one end extending far away far from playing field. Surprisingly, it was actually worse than Memorial.

Now google the the remodeled Stanford stadium- track removed, grandstands remodeled to two tiers which are steeper and don't extend as far away from the field (creating a louder atmosphere & better home field advantage); bleachers replaced with actual seats. The overall seating capacity was actually reduced, but more luxury boxes were added.

Contruction started after last home game in 2005. New stadium opened for 2nd home game in 2006. Total cost - about $90M. The only thing I would do differently with Memorial is to figure out a way to open up the South end to retain the view of the hill- otherwise perfect replica of what we need. Get it done!

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Adam McEwen 6 months, 3 weeks ago

After reading some comments I've gotta ask, is everyone so lazy that they're incapable of walking a few blocks to the stadium?

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jaybate 6 months, 3 weeks ago

The only remotely feasible approach to renovation is to turn it partially, or fully, into a domed stadium and have KU basketball play a selected number of games in it to supplement the volatile football revenues. The football program will take a decade to get good enough to fill any substantial expansion seating. The domed stadium would ease scheduling conflicts for mens and women's basketball, too. The track should be left in place so that the domed stadium could be used to attract pre-Olympic track and field events.

Track and field is the next sport to be promoted big time. And KU's alliance with Adidas, the global leader in track and field shoes and apparel is a perfect reason to do the dome. It should be called the KU-Adidas Dome.

None of the other solely football oriented expansions make fiscal sense, because of how weak the football program has always been on its own. Costly double-decking the east side, just creates more bad seats to watch an often bad team. Closing the bowl creates even worse seats for the same end. Digging down to lower the field, remove and add seats is a lot of cost for a tiny increase in good seating.

But they won't do the feasible thing, because KUAD is a not-for-profit extremely beholden to the political economic agendas of a very small number of private oligarchs. KUAD will do exactly what they and Chancellor CBernie want.

That will be one of two scenarios:

  1. lower the field and add a tiny number of Private Oligarchy Suites down at field level; or

  2. they will do something closer to what University of Michigan did.

They will build a large, six story multi-use structure that extends the full length of the side of the horseshoe opposite the press box. The top one, or two stories will be luxury suites for corporations oriented to the playing field. The lower floors will be a combination of incubator "institute" space (e.g., a fracking institute), and university offices and classrooms for some sexy new school/department CBernie has her eye on creating (most likely some discipline capable of attracting defense grants (e.g. a cyber spy program jointly affiliated with MI-5 and CIA, a nanotechnology department, a weather warfare department, etc.).

I don't like domed stadia much, but they beat sitting out in freezing November/December weather, and if folks really believe the global warming hype, then an air-conditioned football stadium is going to be an absolute must over the next 50 years.

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Cysquatch 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Remove and build downward into the former track, similar to the stadium at UT, Austin. Square off the seats in the North end zone, similar to every other football stadium, and improve the scoreboard on the South end zone, better sound, better definition, slightly higher, but not too much. I am thinking two high def wide screens (16:9) that do not obstruct the view of The Hill and the Campanile, the best part of Memorial Stadium. The view, cuz we all know we are not looking at that pile of crap on the field...

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stanleys 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Yea well Kstate (Manhattan) has had some wonderful success over the past 15 years or so. KU is still struggling trying to win 2-3 games a year. First things first fellas and that is FIRE WEIS........NOW>>>>he is not college coaching material. And neither are any of his assistants.

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kay_you 6 months, 3 weeks ago

They did a nice job on the stadium in manhattan on what was basically a high school like facility. Whatever they do I hope they keep it traditional looking and not like an NFL stadium.

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Tony Bandle 6 months, 3 weeks ago

As a KU architectural grad, I am quite interested in what transpires. It would be somewhat ironic however, that somewhere down the line, we look back and see that the best solution was to update Memorial for a compliant track layout, with soccer, etc., keep all the football offices and practice fields there and build a state of the art football stadium on the new site!!

Still. I think the posters have pretty much covered the highlights:

1] Remove the track and lower the field thus adding seven rows below the current field plus another 10 rows above at the open end . That will give it a 15 row "bowl look" but still keep a large portion of the "Hill View".

2] Provide a large updated scoreboard at the North End.

3] Turn the open ground around the stadium into designated tailgate areas.

4] My contribution - tear down the slum homes from Maine to Illinois and 9th to 11th streets thus making that an additional "Super Taligating Field" while maintaining no parking on the streets for easier traffic flow.

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KGphoto 6 months, 3 weeks ago

I’ve posted this before but why not share it again. It’s a good one.

This reno with the Sporting Park partial cover would be so nice.

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KGphoto 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Glad they hooked up with Cerner. I’ve been pimping the idea of the soccer style, partially covered stadium for a while. Exactly like what Sporting Park has. I would love it if they took that path.

It would probably be the only American football stadium to “sport” the look. I don’t know what it is, but the inside of those stadiums are just rad. Maybe it’s the way the lights are out closer to the field giving the corners of the stands that shadowy feeling like AFH.

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Brandon Mahon 6 months, 3 weeks ago

I love where the stadium is located. I wish there were some more open lots to where there could be tailgating. When the university looks at renovations they should not only add parking but look at buying some of the land near the stadium for tailgating. The game day experience at the games is fun and cool but it could be better just like the stadium. Add some stands under the big score board, replace the mini scoreboard with a bigger newer one, and get rid of the crappy fence. Make a tunnel for the players to walk out of instead of them having to walk through a fence. Little changes could make a huge difference.

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troutsee 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Close the south end and lower the track. Make it a football stadium. I go there to watch football not to look wistfully at the campanile.

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Waylon Cook 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Zenger does a great job except when hiring the most important coach of all............................

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Reuben_J_Cogburn 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Most beautiful, state-of-the-art stadium doesn't mean jack if you can't win football games.

....same with the intriguing uniform combos we've put out lately.

Focus on winning. How stupid will we feel when we have the inaugural game at updated Memorial Stadium and get beat by the University of Phoenix Online?

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gorilla10 6 months, 3 weeks ago

  1. Remove the track.
  2. Lower the field a little bit.
  3. Close the bowl with about 15 rows of seats low enough to keep the hill visable while also giving players a true tunnel to run out of.
  4. Update north stadium scoreboard with a screen of some sort.
  5. Turn the throwing tunnels and grass on the northeast side of the stadium into a parking lot!

Has anyone ever been to Fort Worth and seen TCU's stadium? The fort worth bowl was there back in the day and I loved that stadium for some reason.....KU could easily give Memorial a similar look.

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ShockNAwe 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Among the changes I would hope for would be seats wide enough for 21st century butts. Nothing more fun than trying to displace some 280 lb. lummox taking up half of your assigned 17 inches.

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ahpersecoachingexperience 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Can we get avatars back. Reading screen names instead of looking at pictures is hurting my head!

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Brett McCabe 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Second note: I wonder if they'll have to move any home games to Arrowhead for the construction or will this be a project that they can complete between seasons, perhaps in phases?

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Brett McCabe 6 months, 3 weeks ago

For those of you outside of the KC area, the Sporting KC stadium in Kansas City, Kansas has won rave reviews as one of the best spectator venues in the county. Zenger is wise to partner with these people.

Also, for everyone who has been complaining about our stadium, it's time to put up or shut up. Get out your wallets and help solve the problem instead of constantly coming on here to gripe. You are going to be absolutely shocked at the price tag.

I won't be able to give a lot, but I will give. It's going to take everyone of us to help out to make this a reality.

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rockchalk_dpu 6 months, 3 weeks ago

I've posted my thoughts on this on previous articles about potential stadium renovations, but think its worth repeating. I think any major renovation should start with putting up a limestone facade over the guts of the stadium. This would give a great uniform look to match the rest of the campus (and especially the Fieldhouse). With lowering the field, I think the gain in seating by extending the current seats down a few rows isn't worth it. Instead, I would favor moving the field toward the bowl to bring the fans closer to the action. My personal preference, with a lower field would be to re-do the slope for better sight lines (Michigan had to do this at the Big House), but block off the horseshoe rather than keeping the U. Of course none of this is possible without some additional luxury seating. Every major renovation to stadiums is including these high dollar seats, so this will have to be factored in somehow (above students/extend the current box). Looking at the picture above in the article, I think this could be such a great stadium with a few asthetic tweaks and then several fan/player experience tweaks to bring it to the modern era.

Just my suggestions on these things of course. I certainly don't expect any of them to be put into place (and haven't received a call from SZ to help consult), but am excited to hear that they are starting to think about it and glad that they have engaged the Sporting group. They have a great fan experience and something worth emulating all throughout sports.

RCJGKU!

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pbouldenv 6 months, 3 weeks ago

KU doesn't need to boil the ocean to start out this project. A must, and I mean as soon as possible is removing the track. Phase 1 should be remove the track, lower the field and put in a proper nice looking fence on the south end of the stadium. This would make Memorial about 100% better and not an embarrassment. Phase 1 should be in the immediate future. The nice to haves but not as critical would be the next phases and could be done over a 5 to ten year horizon. Phase 2 redesign/rebuild the north end zone bring the stands closer to the field (keep the cool exterior wall column look though). Phase 3 rebuild the east stands bringing them closer to the west stands. I hope KU focuses on the most important things and doesn't stall this project on non-essential nice to have features. Memorial is in an awesome location which makes up for a lot of deficiencies with the actual stadium.

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JayhawkRock78 6 months, 3 weeks ago

I was in the press box and several suites for the Relays. Seems nice enough as is.

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741hawk 6 months, 3 weeks ago

The track is gone. Lower the field. Add 7,000 seats. Tear down the north bowl. Build the stands across the end zone. Create a home field that a good team can take advantage of. (It's coming, too.) That's a great start! Lots to feel hopeful about. I've been on this campaign since 1985. I was beginning to think I might die before seeing it. Maybe not. Rock Chalk.

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ahpersecoachingexperience 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Since it is a memorial I say we honor the soldiers in the most bad@$$ way possible. Drop an atom bomb right on the 50 yard line!!!!!!!

Ahpersevisionaryexperience has the new plan. Build a new stadium in Kansas City and play our home games there. Own the KC market and its high school prospects for ever. Memorial is to far gone. No parking for tailgating, horrible traffic flow (the reason everyone leaves at halftime), and finally too many bad memories!

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justinryman 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Is anyone else shocked that Aphersay wasn't the first to comment on this story?

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Dirtyphog 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Best news I've heard in awhile, especially working with cerner, keeping it in the KU family. Sporting park is the best soccer stadium in country, and I've heard Clint Dempsey say it's the best in the world. I hope they can retain some of the history of memorial, but still turn it into a great state of the art stadium. If they can put a decent product on the field it could fund itself

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scarletbhound 6 months, 3 weeks ago

I deeply appreciate Zenger's recognition that Memorial Stadium honors Kansas alumni who died in World War I. One of those people was my great uncle. Everytime I attend an event at thr stadium I think of Uncle Van and other war dead. It helps keep me grounded by recognizing that whatever happens on the field, there are more important things in life than the final score of a football game. It's wonderful to have an athletic director with a profound understanding of KU tradition.

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Displayhawk 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Hopefully the renovation of the football team won't take as long as the renovation of the stadium!

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Andy Tweedy 6 months, 3 weeks ago

JHWKDW talks about the bowl aspect of Memorial, but I must say I'd be pretty disappointed if we lost the view of the hill from the seats. Maybe a lower section of seats, but I say no to closing in the end entirely. Of course, just about anything is better than a chain link fence and a tarp.

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ccarp 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Best news I read on Jayhawk football all day

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Janet Scott 6 months, 3 weeks ago

"All options are on the table....", according to Zenger; which I conclude means a B-52 bombing run. Look, until KU makes significant and major revisions to Memorial Stadium, the KU football program will see little advancement and will not have any staying power. Memorial Stadium is antiquated, a patchwork of add-ons, and is minor league when compared to other strong football schools. It will take $100 million or more to do the job. Can KU come up with that level of funding? Hope so, but it's a long shot.

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JHWKDW 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Second that Matt! Good article.

Dr. Zenger keep up the good work.I am glad we are talking about doing this.Been a long time since we had a good AD like you Dr. Zenger.Regardless of what happens with the HC position, I think ALL of KU Athletics is moving forward into the 21st Century, not just in one sport.

One thing I hope is gone is the empty part of the east end no more horseshoe.More seast and better press boxes.Maybe a parking garage built in place of where the lot is now.

There are other issues I Hope Dr. Zenger brings up in the future but for now I hope this football stadium plan goes forward.In Zenger we trust. RCJH

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actorman 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Great article, Matt.

Sounds like things are in solid hands with Zenger running the show, and I can't wait to see what they come up with.

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