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Originally published June 20, 2014 at 04:00p.m., updated June 21, 2014 at 12:56a.m.

KU to remove track from Memorial Stadium

Construction set to begin Tuesday

The Kansas Jayhawks take the field prior to kickoff against TCU, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012 at Memorial Stadium.

The Kansas Jayhawks take the field prior to kickoff against TCU, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012 at Memorial Stadium.

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Rendering courtesy of Kansas Athletics

Kansas University's plan to remove the track at Memorial Stadium, left, is shown in the rendering at right. The track will be replaced by turf that will extend 37 feet from the sideline, leaving just 10 feet of black “drainage asphalt” between the turf and the stands. In addition, a decorative fence will replace the chain-link fence on the south end of the stadium.

When Kansas University football players take the field this fall, they won’t cross a track to get there.

Removal of the track that surrounds the playing surface at Memorial Stadium is set to begin Tuesday. The process, as first reported by the Journal-World on Friday, is expected to take six weeks and will be finished before the 2014 season.

The track has been a hot topic with KU fans for years, and Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger decided to move forward with the project Friday morning after final details were presented to him.

The track will be replaced by turf that will extend 37 feet from the sideline, leaving just 10 feet of black “drainage asphalt” between the turf and the stands. In addition, a decorative fence will replace the chain-link fence on the south end of the stadium.

Zenger told the Journal-World on Friday that an anonymous donor, who had previously shown interest in helping fund such a project, reaffirmed that commitment in recent weeks. Total cost is expected to be roughly $500,000.

“This was less about cost and more about the safety of our players and the aesthetics of our stadium,” Zenger said.

Zenger said that ongoing discussions with KU football coach Charlie Weis helped reinforce that player safety and creating a better practice environment in Memorial Stadium were top priorities. In addition, donors and fans consistently voiced to Zenger that their first desire for stadium improvements was the removal of the track.

“It’s what our players wanted, it’s what our coaches wanted and it’s what the majority of our fans, as we crisscrossed the state, said they wanted,” Zenger told the Journal-World. “We were the last major program in the country still with a track around its football field, and I think that sent the wrong message about our commitment to football. This is now a football-only facility.”

Zenger reiterated that this was merely the first step in upgrading Memorial Stadium and that the major renovations he hopes are on the horizon likely remain a couple of years out.

“This is step 1A of four or five steps,” Zenger said. “It’s an intermediate step to our greater renovation plans of what I truly feel is a great traditional stadium.”

When faced with the dilemma of whether to act now or wait to address the track as part of a bigger project that could include lowering the field, Zenger said his staff made a compelling argument — the athletic department already had been paying six-figure sums annually for upkeep of a track that will no longer be used. Kansas’ new track facilities at Rock Chalk Park opened this spring.

Thanks to the generosity of the donor, Zenger said, the idea of immediate improvements won out because it provided the greatest benefit to the greatest number of people.

“Rather than make our players wait for a safer and better playing surface, the decision was made to move forward now,” Zenger said. “People kept asking about taking the track out and my response was always, ‘What are we going to put there?’ From there, the staff went to work and came back with great solutions that will benefit our players and our fans.”

Comments

Sean O'Grady 8 years, 1 month ago

Let's throw good money at bad money. As someone who ran on the track for 3 years, if they claim a six-figure upkeep on it, I'm embarrassed. I've given more recaps of plays to friends not by a yard marker, but by where there's a dead spot on the track.

So instead of lowering the track, we're just going to put more turf on it. At least with a quality track program TV announcers could talk about something else than our abysmal play and lack of bowl appearances.

Kyle Sybesma 8 years, 1 month ago

Based on the foundation of Memorial Stadium I think it's possible for renovations to look similar to TCF Bank Stadium of the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Thoughts?

http://www.gophergridiron.com/page/show/327408-gopher-facilities

Mark Lindrud 8 years, 1 month ago

If they drop the field low enough that would be amazing, and could add at least 10k seats in the lower portion in addition to there still being a view from the hill. I like the look and wonder how someone can pitch the idea.

Aaron Paisley 8 years, 1 month ago

Have you been to Memorial since they put in the newest scoreboard? There is basically no view from the hill anymore.

Mark Lindrud 8 years, 1 month ago

I'm aware. The real focus is improving the stadium either way.and at least getting rid of the track is a start.

Dirk Medema 8 years, 1 month ago

The difference between Memorial Stadium and just about all others is the angle of the seating. We just have a really flat bowl, which doesn't allow fans to be close or relatively loud. Hopefully, that is the reason there will be several steps to the reconstruction. The seats need to be closer and steeper to ever have a chance at a real home field advantage.

Taylor Wright 8 years, 1 month ago

If anything, the renderings accurately depict how many fans will be there

Alison Carter 8 years, 1 month ago

At least budget for an historical marker for this track.

Tony Bandle 8 years, 1 month ago

Well, a fifth of a loaf is better than none...this will be a classic case of addition by subtraction. At least the field will not convey the split personality that it has done all these years.

The end game is to lower the field, add more premium seats [and more premium ticket prices] and bring the fans closer to the action.

The caveat still remains....if you make it beautiful environment but the product on the field remains crap...will they come???????

My bottom line is that Memorial Stadium will now look like a real football stadium and maybe, just maybe, it will influence enough quality recruits to actually help bring KU back from the football dead!!

Then again, if you put lipstick, rouge and false eyelashes on a pig......it's still a pig. The best way to improve Memorial is to WIN SOME FRIGGIN' GAMES!!!

Dirk Medema 8 years, 1 month ago

Recruiting has been improving, in spite of the recent bad records. This will be a nice step in the right direction, and should communicate the right message to recruits.

Build it, and they will come.

Leo Hawkins 8 years, 1 month ago

This is terrific news! The "after" photo of the final rendering looks great.

Brad Farha 8 years, 1 month ago

Very happy to see this. If this is just 1A of 4 or 5 steps, I look forward to seeing the rest.

Bryce Landon 8 years, 1 month ago

Still say a bigger football stadium would have been a better move, but whatever.

Lonnie Ross Dillon 8 years, 1 month ago

Why? They don't fill the one they have now..

Mark Lindrud 8 years, 1 month ago

I agree with the coaching staff, which is why this season has gained even more importance. We hired a new OC and in reality we have no more excuses for not being able to win more games.

That being said, renovating the stadium is vital because it helps in recruiting, and we do have the opportunity now to create a real home field advantage. We can only hope more wins this season drives the athletic department to make renovations to create the stadium recruits will be impressed with and us fans will enjoy coming to more. I know this maybe wishful thinking, but so far Zenger has been proactive to improve the facilities overall, which is a positive.

Doug Roberts 8 years, 1 month ago

Over the past decade, it didn't even matter what the football article was about, there were always at least a few malcontents whining about the track still being there. Now, the athletic department is actually PLANNING on REMOVING the track, and all I see are comments B*TCHING about it. This is the one idea I thought everyone would be behind.

Hey, I want KU to return to bowl prominence like everyone else, but be realistic people! Not everyone gets a trophy, there's no such thing as free healthcare, the guy doesn't always get the girl, sometimes it rains during a parade, and you don't always get what you want.

Grow up, and accept that success is a process. For * sake.

Doug Roberts 8 years, 1 month ago

Also, news flash, the first 15 rows at a football game are sh*t. Nobody wants those. So quit calling those "premium" seats. They suck. I'd rather we build suites for fat cat doners than cheap seats that nobody really wants to be in.

Doug Roberts 8 years, 1 month ago

Finally, you don't have to be 3 feet from the sideline to be a loud and intimidating crowd. You just have to BE THERE. A FULL Memorial Stadium is a LOUD Memorial Stadium.

But, it's up to the football team to draw the fans to the stadium with a product worth spending and cheering for.

Steve Jacob 8 years, 1 month ago

Remember, football is about to change. The NCAA is going to lose court cases and it might be bidding wars for players.

Chuck Woodling 8 years, 1 month ago

Half of a million dollars worth of lipstick for a pig.

Jack Jones 8 years, 1 month ago

Still a bitter, old whiner ~ eh, Chuck? Your money??

Aaron Paisley 8 years, 1 month ago

This is not a final solution, but just the first two steps of several to renovate the stadium. The fence at the south end of the stadium is big for appearances as well. Be happy that Zenger is smart enough to do the renovations as the money is available instead of waiting until all the funds were raised.

Also, keep an eye on Wallace Wade Stadium when KU visits this season because I do believe that Duke still has a track around their field and they're considered a major program as well.

Scott Morgan 8 years, 1 month ago

Coming from a Big 10 school area where 90K was the norm at games, I've always liked the charm of Memorial better.

BTW.........Packers Lambeau Field Field is just a bowl too. Lambeau is always rated one of the best. Also built just to watch football, seats are close to the action.

Hope they do something to recognize the KU historic track and field performances at the new place. Have to admit the U of Minnesota field does look good.

While doing the facelift how about some 4 and 5 star recruits to go with them.. Football recruits.

Aaron Paisley 8 years, 1 month ago

Two complaints I've seen pretty frequently in regards to improving Memorial Stadium do make me wonder how much thought people put into their ideas. The first is getting people into Memorial Stadium and the second is preserving the view from the hill. I don't believe it's possible to do both in this day and age. If you give people a free show that you get from the hill, why would people go into the stadium to watch the game and spend money on food and drinks in there? Keep the scoreboard how it is, which the current one does block the view from the hill almost completely, you force people to actually go into the stadium and buy a ticket to watch the game.

One idea I think the school administration should seriously consider is sell alcohol at the football games. Do a trial run on it the way Texas is doing this season and that's an additional revenue stream for the athletic department. I realize the typical negative responses to selling alcohol at a college sporting event, but I believe it's something definitely worth doing on a trial basis.

Mark Lindrud 8 years, 1 month ago

As far as alcohol, quit selling at the end of the 3rd quarter like lots of stadiums do. Right now we need fans to have reasons to come to games and for some drinking at a game is a bonus. Improving the fan experience in addition to putting the fans closer is important to create a better home field advantage. Also, winning more games would help, but I'm aware nothing is perfect, but they need to try new things.

Mike Barnhart 8 years, 1 month ago

Why not push the playing field 10 yards further into the north bowl. It would put a bunch of fans closer to the field. After that, add about 15 rows of PORTABLE bleachers behind the south endzone and call it done!

(I know the south endzone seats would create limited view seats on the lower part of the last two sections of the existing stadium. A good problem to have if we ever fill the place up!)

Jonathan Allison 8 years, 1 month ago

oh you mean create limited view for the "visitor seats?" Good idea!

Ross Cargo 8 years, 1 month ago

Lipstick on a pig. Dropping the field and extending seating down does nothing to bring the current seats closer to the action. In fact, they will actually be even further away.

Step 1b is to tear that dump down. It flat out is a crappy stadium. Scrape it and start over. Modeling after the Minnesota stadium is a great idea.

KU will have to play in Arrowhead for a year or two.

And yeah, KU needs to start winning some games.

Fred Davis 8 years, 1 month ago

Bill Murray said it best - Baby Steps.

This program isn't turning into Bama overnight because of this, hell, they're not even gonna be Mizzou at this point, but getting rid of the track is an encouraging step towards at least looking like a legit D1 football program.

The last Major Program in College football with a track around it. Think about that. That's a recruiting knock every time and now that's gone. This isn't the end-all be all, but this is probably the best football-related decision The Zeng has made - the jury is still out on CW.

Rock Chalk

Jonathan Allison 8 years, 1 month ago

Removing the track is certainly a step in the right direction for the football program. And despite the fact that removing the track does nothing tangible to bring back value to the program (hard to put a $ value to the impact it may have on recruiting, player safety, etc...), $500,000 is very little money to do something that has been so sorely needed for the stadium.

Plus it's a drop in the bucket compared to what KU will have to spend in total. To create a good environment to watch football will be no simple task. Like Dirk said, the flat bowl already creates poor viewing angles for most seats lower than the concourse tunnels. Lowering the field will make the viewing angles even worse. I'd think that the athletic department would want to account for that eventually if they intend to lower the playing surface.

Lucas Town 8 years, 1 month ago

That is a good point. If the flat bowl architecture of the stadium already creates poor viewing angles then lowering the field would be the worst thing KU could do to the field. You would have to stand the entire game to see anything if the field was dropped too much. Why not build a new 45 to 50k capacity stadium like Baylor? Oh, and do it 15 years ago.

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