LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas’ drastic renovation of Memorial Stadium and other athletic facilities now has a price tag, artist renderings and name.
Buoyed by the largest donation in the athletic department’s history, KU chancellor Douglas Girod and athletic director Sheahon Zenger on Friday announced details of a $350 million, five-year campaign dubbed “Raise The Chant,” a plan that includes upgrades to Memorial Stadium and Hoglund Ballpark, construction of a new 3,000-seat volleyball arena and completion of renovations at Allen Fieldhouse.
“It’s an exciting day,” said Zenger, who is in his seventh full season as KU athletic director. “You dream of days like this in your career when you can announce these kinds of numbers.”
Primarily focused on upgrading Memorial Stadium, which opened in 1921, the project will begin at the conclusion of this football season with construction of an indoor practice facility at a to-be-announced location. KU is currently the only school in the Big 12 without an indoor practice facility — a “problem for us when it comes to recruiting,” Girod acknowledged.
“Quite frankly, when we talk about the indoor or other things, these are facilities that could and maybe should have been done 20, 25 years ago,” Zenger said. “While we’re very proud of everything we’ve done, it’s time to turn our attention to this and in the next three to five to six years get done 25 years worth of work.”
Football renovations will continue following the conclusion of the 2018 season with improvements to the south end zone and west side of the stadium, with enhancements to the north end zone and the stadium’s east side coming at an undetermined time thereafter. Artist renderings released Friday showed development on the west side, with a new exterior, club lounge area and premium seating among the features.
Other planned additions include suites, expanded concourses with viewing decks and premium concession options.
“We want to continue to be a very strong member of the Big 12 Conference, and we know football is a very big part of that,” said Girod, who was appointed KU chancellor in May. “Certainly this project, or projects really … are a key element to maintaining that important membership.”
The $350 million total represents not money in hand but rather “where we want to be when we’re done,” said Girod, who stressed the project is an ongoing campaign with “a lot of steps and a lot of bases in between.”
Still, that campaign got off to a smashing start Friday when KU alumnus and benefactor David Booth pledged $50 million to the project. It represents a record contribution for the department, which has also received a $10 million donation from Stu Horejsi and major gifts from Dana and Sue Anderson and the Mike Beatty family, among other donors.
Booth said Zenger’s multi-year vision — as well as the success of the men’s basketball team and the direction coach David Beaty is taking the football program — spurred the donation.
“I am proud to support my alma mater’s athletic program,” Booth said in a news release. “I believe Sheahon’s plan for football and basketball is essential not only for the future of Kansas athletics, but also to the university as a whole.”
KU also announced Friday the successful renegotiation and extension of its apparel rights agreement with current partner adidas, which will provide $191 million in sponsorship and apparel over the next 14 years and which will aid KU in its campaign.
The agreement with adidas tweaks the final two years of the current contract and takes KU into a full new 12-year deal, Zenger said, though he added he couldn’t comment further until the long-form details of the agreement were finalized.
Zenger and the athletic department recently completed a process he labeled “clearing the deck” for the Memorial Stadium renovations, which included the construction of Rock Chalk Park, the DeBruce Center and McCarthy Hall as well as upgrades to the locker room and other parts of Anderson Family Football Complex, which houses the football program’s day-to-day operations.
“You know all of those things,” Zenger said. “It’s now time to finish the projects with the tip of the spear being this football stadium.”
ZENGER, BEATY ‘RIGHT TEAM AT RIGHT TIME’ — Girod, who took his post as chancellor on July 1, affirmed his support for Zenger and Beaty.
“I have confidence in both of them that we really have the right team at the right time,” Girod said. “We’ve just got to get you the right tools to get the job done.”
Beaty has compiled a 3-24 record in his two-plus seasons at the helm, guiding the Jayhawks to a 1-2 mark this season.
“We’re on a great path,” Girod said of the football program. “We’re really excited about where (Beaty’s) taking us because he truly is an inspirational coach.”
Zenger, who hired and later fired Beaty’s predecessor, Charlie Weis, has “elevated every element of our athletics program,” Girod said.
“We’ve really had some tremendous successes in athletics under Sheahon’s leadership,” Girod said. “… He’s certainly a man of vision and integrity (who) I know is a Jayhawk to the core, and really has picked the right guy in coach Beaty to lead us.”
Asked if any on-field outcomes this season could affect his faith in Zenger or Beaty, Girod cited his 18 years working at KU Medical Center and the importance of setting a plan, sticking with it and giving it time to work.
“It’s not easy and it’s never a straight line,” Girod said. “You’ve just got to keep fighting, keep pushing and keep moving to the next level. That’s worked for us in the past. I think we’re on the right path now, and you’ve got to keep moving, and we’ve got to give it time. But we’ve got to show that we mean it, and this is a pretty big part of showing that we mean it.
FACELIFTS FOR VOLLEYBALL, BASEBALL — On Wednesday, the Kansas Board of Regents approved KU’s request to spend $22 million in private donations and athletic funds on upgrades to Hoglund Ballpark and the construction of a new volleyball arena to replace Horejsi Family Athletics Center, which will begin immediately following the 2017 season.
The new volleyball arena will feature an additional 1,700 seats, theoretically allowing KU to for the first time host NCAA Tournament matchups beyond the second round.
Hoglund Ballpark’s renovations include plans to replace the existing grandstand with a 2,000-seat stadium with 80 field-level suite seats and eight press box-level suites, also adding 1,000 bleacher seats on the left-field baseline, according to plans submitted to the Regents.