Stadium renovation proves Kansas a football school too


According to KU Athletics officials, Memorial Stadium is set to undergo a $300 million renovation. Currently, architects are completing renderings of the renovation plans.

According to KU Athletics officials, Memorial Stadium is set to undergo a $300 million renovation. Currently, architects are completing renderings of the renovation plans. by Nick Krug

The big news about an impending $300 million renovation project for Memorial Stadium came with no details, but since it’s such a huge undertaking it’s easy to draw a few conclusions. First, naming rights are certain to go to the biggest donor or donors.

Second, the renovation will come in stages, not all at once. Since KU doesn’t have a viable option for a temporary home field in the event Memorial Stadium is shut down for a year, it won’t be shut down for a year and all the work will take place from the day after the final home game of each season until the days leading up to the season opener.

TCU and Kansas State underwent their stadium facelifts in phases and so will KU.

Best guess as to the portion of the stadium that will be addressed first is the West side, where the luxury suites and most desirable seats are because the sun isn’t in spectators’ eyes, then maybe the south side end, where the team enters and exits the field.

The stadium will be wired to the max so that fans can watch a play Iive and then watch the instant replay on their phones.

Sports franchises today count man caves as serious competitors for their stadiums, which must include bars, restaurants, family-friendly entertainment options that stretch beyond the field of play.

A sum of $300 million can buy plenty of bells and whistles. And if the money is spent wisely and the stadium sparkles, it also can buy Kansas coaches a seat at the table of big-time recruits more regularly than in the past.

Rehabilitated stadiums tend to become fashionable places to go, even more so if they develop catchy nicknames.

That of course will depend on the name of the new stadium. The identity of the major donor remains a secret, but just for the sake of using an example, let’s suppose it’s David Booth. It wouldn’t take long before the stadium would become known as “The Booth,” as in, “See you at The Booth on Saturday.”

The planned stadium renovations will go down as athletic director’s Sheahon Zenger’s legacy, a big step in his recovery from the program-damaging hire of football coach Charlie Weis.

Zenger initially had announced that a special fundraiser would be in charge of the football-stadium project but never made that hire and let Matt Baty, head of the Williams Fund, and his staff, including closer extraordinaire John Hadl, meet with the donors, explain the goals and ask for the order. They obviously did a terrific job, leading to Wednesday night’s announcement in Kansas City.

The message rings loudly: You don’t spend $300 million on a football-stadium renovation if you don’t care about football.


Karen Mansfield-Stewart 10 months ago

Zenger and staff will definitely deserve major kudos if they pull this off and KU winds up with a beautiful, top-tier football stadium. Not to mention all of the major donors who make it financially possible.

In addition, this makes KU much more attractive if & when the Big12 goes up in smoke in the next 3 - 5 years.

Brett McCabe 10 months ago

When. And that's a major selling point to donors.

John Fitzgerald 10 months ago

I bet a big factor or at least proposition was that this would help cement KU's future into staying in a Power 5 conference. We all know basketball is our forte, but football is the money maker. And most of what these conference heads care about is money.

Suzi Marshall 10 months ago

This project does not necessarily mean Kansas cares about football as much as it says Kansas wants to remain in a power conference. Without this project our power conference status would be bleak.

Bryce Landon 10 months ago

Nor does it make KU a football school. KU becomes a football school when football becomes more popular and successful than basketball (a la KSU).

Brett McCabe 10 months ago

Keegan's timeline on what may come first is interesting - and telling. The north bowl is a major problem, there aren't enough luxury suites for the luxury suite crowd, the open end needs to be closed - but keep the view. And for those who look directly into the sun, any way to put some shade (the good kind) on those students? An ideal addition would be some way to make the place louder. A partial roof for reverberation?

The good news? The top stadium design firms are all in Kansas City. They've done many before, so we should have something special when it's all done. Pretty exciting stuff.

Josh Galler 10 months ago

I would not close it. I would use that area as a fan friendly concourse

Dirk Medema 10 months ago

The sound would be helped by making the stadium more vertical. It currently has one of the shallowest inclines, so the sound isn't contained as much as more vertical stadiums.

Ironically, that's the inverse of Allen, and part of why Coach Self has said it would never be replaced.

Kent Clark 10 months ago

I'm thinking we do something that is comparable to what Washington did, they had a bowl just like ours and it took 280 million to basically build them a new stadium.. Ironically, winning came along with it.

Marcus Balzer 10 months ago

We need to keep winning because a brand new stadium isn't going to look very good if there isn't butts in those seats.

Bryce Landon 10 months ago

More accurately, we need to get back to winning. We haven't done a lot of winning since the midway point of Mangino's final season.

Bryce Landon 10 months ago

Tom, I will disagree with you on your claim that the hire of Charlie Weis damaged our football program. The program was already damaged before Weis was brought here by the investigation into Mangino's treatment of the players, his firing, and the hiring of the clueless Turner Gill, brought about by Zenger's predecessor Lew Perkins.

Greg Ledom 9 months, 4 weeks ago

If you don't think CW damaged our football program then you haven't been paying attention. Was it solely CW, no, but not sure Tom eluded to that. It was Mangino thinking he was bigger than the program (no pun intended), Gill's incompetence, and Weis' I'm here for the paycheck only attitude. But make no mistake, the CW hire absolutely damaged the program (more than Gill) and CW was most definitely a contributor of nails to the coffin and then started throwing the dirt in. Beaty is a breath of fresh air. Here's hoping he can get it done and get some more W's this year. Rock Chalk!

Bryce Landon 9 months, 4 weeks ago

Make no mistake, the Weis hire hurt our program, but Keegan wrote the article in such a way that it sounded like he was claiming Weis was solely responsible for the sorry state of KU football today.

Clara Westphal 10 months ago

Those in charge of all of this need to remember that the original stadium was a World War I memorial. That should be taken into consideration when planning what happens with the reconstruction.

Kurt Patrick 9 months, 4 weeks ago

I had the privilege of playing high school football with Dr. Zenger as the quarterback. Back then we just knew him as Zing. He was a short and slow 150 pounder who started because his heart made the rest of us want to follow him. I remember once (when I whined in the huddle about the blocking) Zenger grabbed my facemask and told me to just do my job (fullback) and get the hell outta his way. Reading about this new project in the context of everything else KU has built since Zenger took charge (track stadium, athletic dorms, baseball facilities, basketball museum, etc) I'm sitting here smiling, because its clear Zenger hasn't changed much. He doesn't care for whiners, and I suspect he truly believes this new stadium project will be a great success if everyone just does their job and gets the hell outta his way...

Bryce Landon 9 months, 3 weeks ago

I just wish he'd get out of his own way when it comes to replacing football coaches...

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