Design & Development

University of Kansas lifts lid on Gateway District venture

The University of Kansas (KU) and Kansas Athletics have announced the latest plans for their transformational Gateway District project, including the first architectural renderings of what will be a reimagined David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.

The Gateway District will also comprise a new conference centre and multi-use facilities that aim to enable year-round use and drive economic development in the city of Lawrence. Plans for the district also include a combination of new retail, dining and other amenities that will seek to drive student recruitment and enhance the campus experience for KU students and employees.

KU issued a request for proposals inviting partners to bid on a project to reimagine its college football facilities back in June, with major upgrades to David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium central to the plans. KU first announced plans to transform the area near the intersection of 11th and Mississippi streets back in October.

The project will be completed in a multi-phased approach. The first phase of the project will include additional renovations to, and expansion of, Anderson Family Football Complex, the training hub for Kansas Football. Additionally, the first phase will include the construction of new southwest, west and north sides of David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium, as well as the new conference centre on the north end.

The upgrades to David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium, which opened in 1921 and has a current capacity of around 47,000, will aim to create an unprecedented fan experience in Lawrence with amenities suited for all fans.

The new seating bowl will bring fans closer to game action with the first row of seating four feet higher off the ground. On top of improved accessible seating and sight lines, there will be new chairback seating in the west and north seating areas and a videoboard that will be approximately two-and-a-half times larger and 60-feet closer to the field.

There will be a 50% increase in area per seat and 50% more leg room throughout the stadium. Fans can also expect approximately 2,300 club seats in three different club spaces and “unique social zones”, along with suites 80 feet closer to the field. On the concourses, fans can expect four-times more food and beverage offerings and at least 1.5 times more restrooms.

Local design firms HNTB and Multistudio have taken the design lead on the Gateway District and David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. KU has also partnered with Turner Construction Company as the construction manager for the project.

In May, Legends, the premium experiences company, and Kansas Athletics announced a long-term partnership focused on reimagining the fan experience at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. Legends is working with Kansas Athletics to optimise revenue generation and curate experiences for all KU fans.

Construction on the first phase will begin at the conclusion of the 2023 football season, and will be completed by the beginning of the 2025 season. Kansas Football will continue to play at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium during construction, but will have reduced capacity for the 2024 season.

The project will be primarily privately funded by donors, with no tuition dollars or state general funds to be used. Kansas Athletics has set an initial fundraising goal of $300m (£235.3m/€274.5m) for David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium and Allen Fieldhouse capital projects, the latter of which is currently under construction.

A total of $165m in gifts and commitments have been secured, including $125m since the project was announced last October. KU said this represents “unprecedented and record-shattering” fundraising results, but maintained that additional support will be needed in order to fulfil the full vision.

Funding for the project will also include $35m in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds appropriated to KU by the 2022 Kansas legislature, as well as up to $50m through the Kansas Department of Commerce’s University Challenge Grant program.

KU said these funds will help finance the aspects of the Gateway District that will drive economic development, including the conference centre and multi-use spaces. Additional funds may come from bonds issued by Kansas Athletics, the debt from which would be repaid from new revenue streams generated by the stadium.

Travis Goff, KU’s director of athletics, said: “The cumulative impact of a world-class football operations complex and one of the finest game day venues in the country catapults Kansas Football, and our entire athletics program, into this critical next chapter.

“We have a proud history, but this unprecedented investment makes a powerful statement about an even brighter future and provides far-reaching impact for our university community, fans and football program.”

Future phases of the Gateway District and David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium will focus on the south and east portions of the stadium, as well as development of multi-use facilities to be used throughout the year to generate revenue for academic programming and student success.

Although in the early stages of planning, KU said the multi-use facilities will include a mix of amenities that aim to further boost economic development in the area and advance the university’s academic mission, such as arts and entertaining, dining, retail, office spaces and lodging.

The renovations to the Anderson Family Complex, to be completed as part of the first phase of the project, will equip the building with a state-of-the-art sports medicine centre that will feature new hydrotherapy pools, cryotherapy chambers and infrared light therapy equipment.

The building, which will be expanded north to connect to the stadium, will also have a new 2,300-square foot player lounge with a nutrition and fuel bar and will have nutrition fuelling stations throughout the facility.

Plans are also in place for a 1,200-square foot state-of-the-art photo/video/audio content studio and a 2,400-square foot in-house student-services centre with dedicated study rooms and player development and academic support facilities. The team will also have a 180-seat team meeting room with full view into David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.

In addition, the facility will be equipped with a 2,400-square foot virtual practice walkthrough room with a video wall that can be combined with the new lobby of the building to create 5,500-square feet worth of multi-functional event space.

Douglas Girod, University chancellor, said: “The Gateway District is a once-in-a-generation project to transform our campus and drive economic development throughout the region. Specifically, this project will create exciting new amenities for students, employees and visitors while providing Kansas Football the facilities it needs to compete at the highest level.”

Goff added: “This project represents a new day for the University of Kansas. An ambitious vision and heightened aspirations require bold investment and earnest action. The Gateway District and new David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium will deliver a profound experience and provide an impact that our student-athletes, fans, and broader community richly deserve.”