KU football facility improvements to be ‘incredibly significant in magnitude,’ AD says

Gary Bedore/gbedore@kcstar.com

The project to renovate/improve the University of Kansas’ Booth Memorial Stadium and Anderson Family Football Complex will be paid for by “private donations, economic development funds, premium seating sales in the stadium and future development opportunities that will be created on the site,” KU’s athletic department announced on Friday.

What was not revealed in a morning news release was how much the undertaking will cost boosters and others who wish to help support football, as well as support construction of a mix of conference and entertainment space, retail space and other functions planned near 11th and Mississippi Streets in Lawrence.

“‘To be determined’ is really the short answer to it,” KU athletic director Travis Goff said Friday afternoon, asked about total cost in a news conference held near the ESPN GameDay stage that’s been constructed on KU’s Campanile Hill for Saturday’s 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. show to precede the KU-TCU football game.

“It’s going to be incredibly significant in magnitude.,” Goff added of improvements to the football facilities. “This was not us saying, ‘We need to do some modifications.’ This was not us saying, ‘We need to enhance or tweak or do some ‘renos’ (renovations).’ This is us saying we have a chance and are fully committed to developing one of the most unique settings and one of the most unique stadiums in the country and at the same time make sure we invest in the football student-athletes that are based right here.

“We won’t cut any corners on what it’s going to take to have an incredible fan experience. Profound is what the outcome will be,” Goff declared.

Goff was asked specifically if $350 million would cover the total cost.

“That’s what I believe we have … that’s in the Board of Regents approved kind of rolling annual budget,” Goff said, not committing to that figure.

What is known for sure is the project will definitely begin with “renovations to Anderson Family Football Complex, as well as site preparation work related to storm water, sanitation, Wi-Fi availability and electrical system upgrades, in the first half of 2023,” KU indicated in a release.

Goff further explained the time frame to reporters.

“We hired an architect yesterday,” Goff said of lead architect HNTB, which will partner with Multistudio and Nation’s Group. “Can you believe they’ve literally already had meetings? They’ll be over here next week really living, breathing sleeping in Anderson Family Football Complex talking with coach (Lance) Leipold about our football program, what our needs are, what the opportunities are with this building. We’ll start on a journey for design and planning to have construction underway the first half of ’23 right here and simultaneously really making headway through the design process for the site, for the stadium occurring in the early parts of ’23,” Goff added.

Goff said more information will be revealed in coming weeks.

“This was always about not saying we’d get something started in December of ’23. It was about action in the early part of the year and continuing forward until this vision is fulfilled,” Goff said.

Goff was asked if the timing of Friday’s announcement was meant to give second-year KU coach Leipold a sign KU is serious about football. Leipold has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the head coach openings at Wisconsin and Nebraska.

“I think the timing is a product of the work that’s been done over many, many, many months, and we got very fortunate for it to align quite frankly with this very awesome week in Lawrence and KU with GameDay (here),” Goff said, noting Leipold’s input would be sought and welcomed by the architecture firm selected.

“Hey, we were doing this with or without a 5-0 football team,” Goff added. “Discussion (on stadium improvements) started before my time, but I can tell you from my experience every day since I’ve been here (April 5, 2021), every day since we hired Coach Leipold and his staff, we’ve talked about what the needs are and making sure we don’t just try and meet what others are doing. We will try and have a different level of commitment around football. Over the past 17, 18 months it’s been a daily journey and brought us to this incredible moment this week.”

Goff pointed out, “there’s no more important time than now for KU to make this kind of statement, to make this kind of commitment. Football is at the driving force frankly of not just intercollegiate athletics but in so many ways the health and vibrancy of higher education. In our case the University of Kansas has a lot to say about momentum as we think about applications in enrollment, the financial health of the university and continuing to build upon the brand what it means to be a Jayhawk.”

KU basketball is also in line for upcoming improvements in facilities, Goff said Friday.

There’s been talk about possibly improving the concourses at Allen Fieldhouse, improving concessions and restrooms and perhaps adding some more chair-back seats which would mean taking out some of the bleachers.

Goff didn’t get into specifics but said: “That will be announced and hopefully sooner rather than later, and that’s pretty reasonable (time frame) as we look out at the next couple of months,” Goff said. “I’m really excited about what the Allen Fieldhouse opportunity provides is. You talk about building football for sustained success. We think and talk every day about not just maintaining the excellence of basketball but how do we create a catalyst to even heighten that for men’s basketball at KU? That project is a great tangible indicator of what that will take — retaining character, history, tradition that only Allen Fieldhouse provides but enhancing the experience of fans and enhancing the student-athlete experience as well.

“We think there’s a way to achieve both.”