Tuesday, September 27, 2022

KU tweaks gameday plans to better handle full football stadium

Fans watch during the second half of an NCAA college football game between Kansas and Duke Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, in Lawrence, Kan. Kansas won 35-27. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Fans watch during the second half of an NCAA college football game between Kansas and Duke Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, in Lawrence, Kan. Kansas won 35-27. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)


The Kansas football program set a record for both concession sales and merchandise sales during last week’s sold-out win over Duke.

But that did not keep KU administrators from looking for ways to improve upon the gameday experience for fans, who have suddenly started showing up in huge numbers to support the 4-0 Jayhawks.

Last week’s game marked the first KU football sellout in three years, and with the program trending toward another one this weekend, when they play host to Iowa State at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium, efforts are being made to make things smoother this week than they were a week ago.

For the most part, things went well last week, said Jason Booker, KU’s deputy athletic director for external affairs and revenue generation. That was especially true regarding entry into the stadium. But there were issues with the concessions stands, and Booker said that is the area KU officials have focused their attention on the most in the past few days.

Booker said the department received several emails with feedback or complaints after Saturday’s game and he replied to each one of them on Monday morning. Beyond that, he said KU administrators were walking around the stadium during last Saturday’s game timing the lines at the concession stands and entry gates in search of “pain points.”

“We’re always looking for continuous improvement,” Booker said.

Booker said the two main goals last week were to have enough product on hand for the fans and to have enough workers to distribute it. This week, the focus is on shortening the lines and making the concessions experience faster and more efficient.

“Now we know what a full stadium looks like and how people are interacting with concession stands and that can help us make sure that this week is better than last week,” Booker said.

To that end, KU plans to add 20 new points of sale for concessions throughout the stadium. Most of them will be placed near the south end zone and in the outer concourse areas.

In addition, they’re adding what Booker called “hawkers” to carry refreshments through the stands for quick and easy sales (credit card only) and also will have some cash-only concession stands in hopes of speeding up the process for those paying with cash.

“We certainly have some limitations here and we know that, but we also know that we can make improvements to address some of those,” Booker said. “We’re going to learn and react from week to week to how things went the week before. Our job is to make sure we’re listening to our fans and trying to provide the best experience possible for everyone.”

In addition to increasing the number of concession stands on site, Booker wanted to remind fans that Memorial Stadium features four refillable water stations. Fans are allowed to bring in their own unopened water bottles and refill them or they can refill the bottles they purchase inside.

For the second week in a row, KU also will host a “happy hour” from 1 to 2 p.m., where concessions will be sold at discounted prices for those fans who enter the stadium early.

Although he did not have final numbers, Booker said last week’s happy hour was effective in both getting people in early and alleviating some of the issues with concessions.

“We’re starting to see that people want to move into the stadium earlier,” he said. “The game is the show again.”

As for merchandise, Booker said KU will bring in a handful of kiosks on loan from the Kansas City Royals to help fans purchase Kansas football gear. Like Lance Leipold’s program, which has shocked college football with its 4-0 start, that number is on the rise.

“Our fans have always had generic Kansas gear or even Kansas basketball stuff, but now they want something with the helmet on it or something that says Kansas Football,” Booker said. “So we’re starting to see a resurgence of people wanting to buy merchandise that’s in line with what Lance and the team are doing on the field.”

Booker and the rest of the KU athletic department realize that things are not perfect at Memorial Stadium. And until some kind of large-scale renovation or stadium upgrade is executed, it likely will remain that way.

His hope, though, is that fans retrain themselves to operate in full stadiums and that the powers that be at KU continue to look for ways to make the gameday experience as enjoyable as possible.

“These are great problems to have,” Booker said. “We may not see everything on game day, and we’ve got 47,000 people that are the eyes and the ears for us right now and we really value that.”


Andy Godwin 2 months, 1 week ago

“To that end, KU plans to add 20 new points of sale for concessions throughout the stadium. Most of them will be placed near the south end zone and in the outer concourse areas.”

More importantly can KU add more restrooms that are not so disgusting to support the extra consumption of food and drink? As everyone who regularly attends games at Memorial stadium knows the facilities are antiquated. You can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig.

At least now the football is exciting, which helps one view the pig a bit differently.

Bryce Landon 2 months, 1 week ago

This is why Sheahon Zenger should have built a new football stadium for KU and left Memorial Stadium to the track team, instead of building a new stadium for the track team and leaving Memorial Stadium to the football team. He definitely got that one bass-ackwards!

Jonathan Allison 2 months, 1 week ago

It will be a sad day if they move the football games away from Oread. The setting at the bottom of the Campanile Hill is beautiful for football games. Somehow they have to keep the football games where they are and at least upgrade/overhaul the stadium if not fully rebuild. There has to be a way where they start in year 1 with the east bleachers and/or the north bowl. And work their way around to basically having a completely new stadium in the same location. We may have to suffer through some reduced capacity for a season or two, but there's almost certainly a way to do it.

I understand the benefits of building a new facility away from campus. There are far fewer limitations if you do it that way, they can build exactly as they want and put in all of the roadways, walkways, tramways, parking, and other infrastructure.

But how do you ascribe value to the setting? Adjacent to Strong Hall, Frasier Hall, Campanile, Potter's Lake, tailgating tents on the hill, the Kansas Union, the center of Lawrence. It's beautiful on TV and even more so in real life. If KU can build a winning tradition, people will pay for the tickets to keep football on campus. As for parking, more shuttles would be obvious.

Joey Meyer 2 months, 1 week ago

They won't move it away from Mount Oread. No way. One of the best settings in the country.

Many, many other new college football stadiums try to get placement ON campus instead of away from campus. There's no way they'd move it off campus, even if it's convenient, cheaper, and has a better timeline. Many KU alumni would mutiny and the athletic department needs everyone's support to make a new stadium happen.

Bryce Landon 2 months, 1 week ago

Memorial Stadium is a thing of beauty when it's full of fans cheering a winning football team!

David Robinett 2 months, 1 week ago

It was a pain in the butt walking the "concourses", and I gave up on the concessions lines.

But I'LL TAKE IT for a full stadium and a winning team!

Dirk Medema 2 months, 1 week ago

Can you bring in an empty, reusable water bottle? Just an ecologically responsible idea.

David - Completely agree. Hopefully the fans appreciate a sellout, and maybe are that much more motivated to support the uni in building the new facilities.

Bryce - Memorial Stadium works even less for the track team than football. The basic facilities, track, does not measure up to accepted standards. Additionally, it doesn’t meet the needs of all the other sports, including basketball, which according to ncaa rules can't host HS events on campus. All of that was covered in previous articles while you were off the wagon.

Andy - I think at this point new restroom facilities, in anything close to timely fashion, are called portapotties - unless you are in Louisiana and then they are K-jons. Hopefully the fans remember the call of nature when call by the uni to support building the new facilities.

Craig Alexander 2 months, 1 week ago

I saw on Saturday a few people with Hydroflasks. Not sure if they were "working" and that was why they were allowed. However, you can bring an unopened water bottle in for each person. I do that and then use the water refill stations to fill it back up with water. You can even bring in a flavor packet or two if you need something sweeter.

Brian Jahelka 2 months, 1 week ago

Normally I'm good for the purchase of at least 4 beers (and some food). The lines were so ridiculously long (upper level, behind sections 5, 6 and 7), I didn't even bother. Went back out to the tailgate for halftime. Don't like missing the marching band, but it was hot, and I was thirsty.

They had exactly ONE vendor selling that crappy St Louis beer in aluminum, and one more selling you a tiny little 12 oz cup of Dunkle. The lines were longer than the room and extended out to the ramp area most of the day. If I had stood in line for one beer, I would have missed at least 1/8th of the game. Seriously, two beer vendors are supposed to keep up with (literally) about a quarter of the stadium?

I sure miss the beer and peanut guys running around in the stands. Hope they make their way back THIS weekend.

Bville Hawk 2 months, 1 week ago

Brian, I don't have any suggestion for you in regards to the long concession lines, but as for the long restroom lines: Male External Catheter, aka condom drain.

I have a buddy in Maryland who goes to Ravens home games. He fills his drain bag with vodka going in, by the time he as to pee the drain bag is empty and attached to the drain tube on his leg.

You're welcome.

John Strayer 2 months, 1 week ago

Nothing like walking around with a bag of pee strapped to your leg. :D

Dirk Medema 2 months, 1 week ago

Bville - That’s crazy. Not sure I could dual-purpose, or maybe he gets a new one for each game.

Bville Hawk 2 months, 1 week ago

Dirk, I'm pretty sure he uses a new bag each game.

I think long lines for the restrooms is almost the norm. I went to a December Packers game at Lambeau a couple years ago. Urinal lines across the room and out the door, women routinely came in the men's room to use the stalls.

Brian Skelly 2 months, 1 week ago

Hopefully success this year on the field results in success in the stadium renovation arena.

Doug Roberts 2 months, 1 week ago

Speaking of strapping a bag of urine to your leg, David Sedaris has a hilarious take on the "Sadium Pal".

Rodney Crain 2 months, 1 week ago

When you are surprised by "fans, who have suddenly started showing up." Because your program is winning, competitive and worth watching and you are ill prepared for something every stadium in the world deals with. It makes me think you are not the right person for the job.

If it was any other program, we would laughing.

A successful coach, a new stadium, a excellent fan experience, will never overcome incompetence.

Brian Wilson 2 months, 1 week ago

Just my opinion based upon a picture of the original stadium which is the current foundations of what we have:

The east and west concrete stands hold 22000 and when the U was added in 1927 capacity was increased to 38,000. The picture shows how open the stadium is and the shallow angle sight line to the field. Taking down the upper stands, press box, concrete facade and stairwells would probably be the best way to update and rebuild on the original base. But IMO it would not improve stadium intimacy or fan experience. Also IMO, If you lower the field, the sight line angle makes it so the fans would be unable to see the entire field.

Thus IMO KU needs a new stadium. And IMO, the current Memorial concept with an open U facing up the campanile is KU's classic design and a tradition that should not be changed. KU should open back up the south end of the field so fans can watch from the hill again. However, the days of watching the game from the Hill for free would need to come to an end. It would be better to have the beautiful view of Potter's lake and the game from the hill at a price than to completely block the view and forever ruin it. KU should redesign the hill with restrooms and an outdoor patio/concessions/ and gift store and charge minimal like $12 Adults/$5 Child 10 and under to keep it family friendly while putting in a garden fence system capable of cordoning off the area. From the Hill, a huge scoreboard video screen installed above the North end zone along with two smaller ones on east and west sides. The new stadium will still be U shaped - or 3/4 rectangular but more intimate, taller, and capable of holding 50,000, with modern boxes and amenities. Thus, with the Campanile being utilized, game crowds could approach who knows how many, 60K plus. As far as parking, IMO GSP Corbin should be flattened. Everything from Mississippi and up the hill to Ohio between 10th and 11th streets should be made into parking. From google map aerial view it appears to be between 12-14 acres. At ground level parking that's enough for 2000 new parking spaces and with a couple of garages more like 3500 to 4000. As far as the dorms, It shouldn't be to hard to find a spot or two near campus where two brand new dorms with better rooms and amenities can be added.

Rodney Crain 2 months, 1 week ago

Brian, you at least have a plan.

The fools running the show have no clue!

Nice work.

Brian Jahelka 2 months, 1 week ago

Rodney, incompetence is the correct word. The KUAD should have known a sellout was possible after a 3-0 start, then got a good idea it was probable early in the week with the spike in sales, and then they even announced the sellout on what, Thursday? How could have they not been preparing with additional staff to sell adult consumables?

We would have easily spent $80-100 on concessions last weekend had it not been for the ridiculous lines. Instead we spent $0.

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