K-State breaks ground on the last part of a $125-million update of its athletic facilities. 

As part of a $125-million project to update its athletic facilities for all 16 sports, Kansas State University broke ground on the Vanier Football Complex project at Bill Snyder Family Stadium during halftime of the Wildcats’ football game with Kansas University on Nov. 29.

“We’ve known for some time that this was the last remaining piece of the puzzle for our football complex,” said Laird Veach, K-State’s executive associate athletic director.

After the $80-million expansion of the stadium’s west side about 14 months ago, the university’s lead donors encouraged the school to continue with the updates. The $50 million needed to move forward with the north side project was raised 12 months later from private donors. The remaining $19 million of the $69-million project was financed through K-State’s athletic department funds. As a result, the university won’t incur any longterm debt.

The Jack Vanier family provided $20 million to help fund the new complex. The family’s total gift of $60 million, with $40 million allocated to academics, is the largest private donation in the history of K-State.

Kansas City, Mo., sports design firm Populous, in conjunction with the construction management team of Minneapolis-based Mortenson & GE Johnson Construction, headquartered in Colorado Springs, are heading the project.

The current Vanier Complex is being demolished this week. In preparation for the construction, the football and academic staffs will be relocated to the West Stadium Center and other nearby athletics facilities.

The current project will emulate the West Stadium expansion, with Gothic architecture that includes limestone and arches.

“One of the goals was to bring the campus flavor to the stadium,” said Ben Stindt, lead designer with Populous. “We did this with the west side, so it was easy to continue on the north end, which will serve as the front door to the football complex.”

Among the facility’s improvements will be a new Academic Learning Center, which will double the size of the current facility. The 8,000-sq.-ft. weight room will be replaced by an 18,000-sq.-ft. Olympic-quality Strength and Conditioning Center that includes multistory ceilings with natural light and a nutrition center for student athletes.

“The weight room and academic center will share the same footprint, which demonstrates to student athletes that the value of their education is as important as athletic training,” Stindt said. “It’s a good balance and a powerful statement.”

One goal of the west side project was to make the athletes’ and coaches’ travel paths as efficient as possible. To accomplish this, Populous’ team created design adjacencies that resulted in 360-degree circulation around the main concourse. This also will provide easier access for staff when stocking concessions and cleaning.

The new north seating bowl has an intimate layout that will include enhanced sightlines and new ADA seating. As part of the more accessible design, this section will be connected to the current west side stadium concourse for access to entrance gates, stadium concessions and restrooms.

“From the beginning, this project has been about the grass roots fan experience, since we’re not a revenue-generating facility,” Veach said. “We didn’t add suites or club seats, but instead will have better sightlines and amenities for the students.”

The complex also will incorporate a new 140-seat team theater, individual position meeting rooms and new offices for the coaching staff that will overlook Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Redesigned 10,000-sq.-ft. football-shaped locker rooms will be more than twice the size of the current space.

In addition, a new sports medicine and recovery facility will house hydrotherapy and recovery pools in addition to examination, recovery and physical therapy spaces and tools.

“The short timeline is the only challenge with this project,” Stindt said. “We had to design a building that could be built quickly with an easy-to-stick-to formal design.”

The project is scheduled for completion by August 2015.

Interviewed for this article:  Ben Stindt, (816) 221-1500; Laird Veach, (785) 587-7834