SBJ/May 5-11, 2014/Facilities

Family section drives K-State improvements

Kansas State, nestled in the heart of the Wheat Belt, went against the grain to develop the newest expansion to Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

A rendering shows the new north end zone at Bill Snyder Family Stadium, set to open in 2015.
Photo by: COURTESY OF KANSAS STATE ATHLETICS
Over the past decade, dozens of major colleges have added premium seats to their football stadiums, to fund growing athletic department budgets and meet the demands of big donors. K-State is no exception: Its $75 million West Stadium Center opened last year, with 40 suites, 800 club seats and 36 loge boxes.

For phase three of stadium upgrades, though, a $65 million project to be completed for the 2015 season, K-State officials turned their attention to expanding the sold-out family seating section in the north end zone, as well as the Vanier Football Complex behind those seats.

“We had five architects that came in and made pitches on this thing, and at first, all of them talked about the different revenue opportunities we could create in the end zone,” said K-State Athletic Director John Currie. “But we had to remind them that this end zone is not about that.”

About 1,800 general admission seats are tied to the family section and have sold out over the past several years. The expansion will likely push the number of seats to 3,000, Currie said. The school sells those seats as season tickets in groups of four as family packs. For the 2014 season, the cost is $649 for four season tickets.

Families are attracted by the opportunity to be close to field level, where they can slap high-fives with the players as they enter the field from the Vanier building, Currie said. To get in that prime position, when the stadium gates open two hours before kickoff, moms, dads and their children can be seen hustling to the front row of the section and both sides of the team’s entry walkway.

“It’s become one of the real hallmarks of K-State football … that grassroots experience we have kind of become known for,” Currie said.

The family section seats were originally built on a flat grade and do not have the best views of the game, said Ben Stindt, a principal at Populous, the sports architect that won the north end zone project after completing the stadium’s master plan in 2010.

To improve sight lines, a new grandstand structure with all new bench seats will be constructed at a steeper angle, along with a 4-foot-high limestone wall in front of the section. As part of the project, Vanier Football Complex will be replaced by a new building measuring 132,000 square feet, more than twice its size.

The additional space will lead to larger support facilities such as an academic learning center, strength and conditioning center, sports medicine and hydrotherapy and locker rooms. The new building also will address critical storage issues, Stindt said.

Over the next two years, the master plan calls for developing a 360-degree concourse around the stadium and two new video boards in the corners of the north end zone, Currie said. The north end zone upgrades are being paid for through a $50 million fundraising campaign and $15 million in operating revenue, Currie said. To date, $37 million has been raised in philanthropic gifts.

All told, K-State will have invested $160 million in stadium improvements by the time the north end zone expansion is completed by Sept. 1, 2015. Total stadium capacity will remain about 50,000. Of that total, about 34,000 seats are tied to season tickets.

“We will refund season-ticket orders for the first time in our history this year,” Currie said. “We think we have the right balance. We don’t want to overexpand.”

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