The University of Kansas has committed to a comprehensive football facility overhaul, with construction set to begin in 2023, the school announced Friday morning.
The plan did not include a specific timeline or a dollar amount for the cost of the project, which KU Athletic Director Travis Goff said would be “unmatched in its vision to benefit a broad range of KU constituents while signaling a new era for Kansas football.
“Once complete, this project will ensure our football program has the facilities it needs to compete at the highest level and provide the best-possible game day experience for student-athletes and fans,” Goff added in a Friday news release announcing the project.
KU has consistently kept stadium renovations in its official five-year capital improvement plan, which is approved each year by the Kansas Board of Regents. The current plan, which was approved this summer, includes $350 million worth of projects for KU’s football stadium.
Similarly, in mid-September, KU Chancellor Douglas Girod told the Journal-World’s Chad Lawhorn that a “gateway” project connected to KU’s football stadium could cost more than $300 million and would be “a very big project.”
The potential for movement on a project of this nature has been in the works for years.
However, past attempts to look to the future and plan for upgrades and renovations to David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium and facilities around it were always based on renderings and plans that were released before any work was scheduled to be done.
None of those plans ever reached the point of execution, and that’s what makes this news so significant.
KU will have shovels in the ground early next year, and a source with knowledge of KU’s plans told the Journal-World that some of the general prep work could begin as soon as the Jayhawks are finished playing football this fall.
“It’s not a vision; it’s done,” the source said. “They’re doing this.”
The grand plan will include renovations to both Memorial Stadium and the Anderson Family Football Complex, and the first major sign of progress will show up through changes to the Anderson Complex.
KU has hired HNTB, of Kansas City, as the lead architect of the massive project. That decision was reached Wednesday.
HNTB will work closely with Lawrence-based design firm Multistudio and Nations Group, a national firm specializing in university athletics venues and mixed-use facilities. Together they will move forward with developing more specific plans, timelines and cost estimates.
Additional planning, in the form of meetings and conversations with KU officials, including head football coach Lance Leipold, could begin as soon as this month.
“This project will have a profound impact on the future of Kansas Football and the entire community,” Leipold said in Friday’s release. “It will specifically impact our current and future football players, who will now have a state-of-the-art facility to train in. With an up-to-date facility and a commitment to improve Anderson Family Football Complex, our day-to-day operation will be more efficient and effective. This is an exciting time for Kansas Football, and this certainly adds to it.”
One of the biggest elements of the project that is now being called a “north gateway to campus” at the intersection of 11th and Mississippi streets is KU’s desire to build something that provides more than just a home for the Kansas football program.
In Friday’s release, Girod called the intersection “the ideal location” for the project that he said will serve a variety of groups — students, alumni, campus guests, etc. — drive economic growth in the region and “reimagine” KU’s football facilities.
The Journal-World reported last month that KU officials in their request for proposals from design firms were seeking “a multi-purpose year-round venue which may incorporate conference or entertainment capabilities, retail, dining, health care services, or other facilities that support economic development and the university’s academic mission.”
The multi-use aspect of the construction and renovation plans remains a key part of the project and figures to play a big role in getting it done.
The source also indicated that KU will be willing to provide more details about the scope of the project — size, specifics and cost chief among them — as things move along and that a timeline for completion of both the total project and specific phases could be included in future updates.
Friday’s announcement coincides with the KU football program’s 5-0 start, No. 19 national ranking and debut as a host of ESPN’s College Gameday football preview show.
All of those factors provide a program that has been desperate for momentum and relevance for more than a decade the opportunity to show the college football world that they’re ready to make a concrete and significant commitment to football.
“Now, more than ever, college athletics – and certainly sustained success in the sport of football – are critical to the health and vibrancy of our entire university community,” Goff said. “There is tremendous excitement for this project among donors and partners who believe in KU’s mission.”