The University of Kansas has been living on borrowed time with the state of its football program. We all know that basketball is King at KU, we all also know that football drives the past, present, and future of college athletics and its ability to provide a top tier university with the prestige and financial stability to continue and expand the prestige that KU has earned in its 156 years. The following design images are based on helping start a dialogue about the need for, the attributes of, and the direction for one of the most significant elements of the modern American college campus experience.
The Design Intent and impetus:
KU's David Booth Memorial Stadium is currently but a shell of what a true modern college sports football stadium should be. With one of the most iconic campus settings in all of college sports, the stadium has undergone very little to upgrade the fan experience, let alone the team experience in the past many decades. Don't misunderstand, the stadium is a great place to watch a football game and to look at the beauty of Mount Oread in the background.... but that is about it. The team has left little to cheer for or even attend the games in over a decade. Love him or hate him, Coach Mark Mangino was the last KU coach to have KU in the national football conversation....in a good way!
Today there is new hope, a coach that is a proven winner. Don't discount Coach Leipold's background, you DON'T win 6 national championships in 8 years if you don't know what you are doing! You don't turn around a team like Buffalo... (a school KU would have played to a tie 6 or 7 years ago I’m sure) if you don't know how to turn a program around!
How did Kansas corral such an up and coming, while also unbelievably successful new coach, by bringing it back to the home state. The hiring of KU alum and rising Tulane and Northwestern assistant athletic director Travis Goff has someone in the house that not only bleeds Crimson and Blue like the rest of us, but he has a proven record and high-level praise from around the college athletic circles as a perfect hire for his alma mater. He's a Kansas kid, Dodge City, out west where you often must look hard to find a KU fan.
The Big XII may or may not be a conference on the verge of irrelevance in terms of national prominence with the imminent departure of Oklahoma and Texas. The league is adding teams to keep its footprint strong with the possibility of making it stronger with a wider footprint. Will this be the saving grace or just a band-aid, we don't know. Will other schools bail at the next best opportunity...would you if you were on a ship that was seemingly, aimlessly drifting? There are three outcomes, the Big XII shores itself up enough to stay semi relevant...love them or hate them, it's hard to replace OU and Texas in football. Two, the Big XII becomes the slightly more impressive version of the Mountain West or American Athletic Conferences, both of those two situations are not ideal for a world class university with a basketball program that is so blue blood that the blue used in the graphic to describe Blue Blood Basketball has KU's Pantone color numbers! The next option, unless another one comes along, is the poaching or "purchasing" of topflight schools with topflight athletic programs isn't quite finished yet. Pick any school in the country that isn't in the B1G 10, the SEC, the ACC or...even the PAC 12, which school would you want the most. The one that brings you more prestige and massive name recognition, or the next best option. Because they will come knocking somewhere, but you must make sure that it is on KU's door!
(( This design is by Doug Schoonover of SCH2 Architects, Vero Beach Florida, KU School of Architecture 1989 (originally from Scott City, Kansas), and Brooke Schiffner of BWS Design Group, Denver, Colorado, KSU College of Architecture, Planning and Design, 1996 (originally from Colby, Kansas). Brooke only roots for KU if they aren’t playing K-State of course, but we share a love of stadiums and arenas and have always dabbled in after-hours design and discussion of the latest and greatest in the world of stadiums. We started this KU project in 2019 but shelved it until the reasons mentioned above unfolded. We are not finished and aren't looking for any recognition other than to see KU finally do something great with Football! Again, this isn’t a final product and assuredly has lots of flaws, but let’s get the conversation started!))
We offer you the following product for a fully renovated football stadium that will help secure KU's place in the beauty pageant brewing behind the scenes at the top football conferences.... don’t forget, Football is KING...but in the world of college sports, there is a place for a Blue Blood basketball school that takes football just as serious!
KU Memorial Stadium. The Booth as it currently stands is old, not upgraded enough for the fans or teams, great to go to for a lazy Saturday afternoon to watch your team get beat and look at the scenery and enjoy the pageantry of college football in a half full stadium.
We can go on about the issues with Memorial Stadium but let’s put it in the context of not what's bad, as much as how do we add the things that will make this a place for KU Football that can rival KU basketball and Allen Field House. Let's start there!
Allen FH, not a bad seat in terms of watching the game or destroying the eardrums of the visiting teams, fans, and world sound records! Total 360 enclosure with a barn roof that kicks the sound back directly onto the floor making it the Guinness Book of World Record holder for loudest indoor stadium/arena.
What nearby football stadium also is in the Guinness Book of World Records for Loudest Outdoor Stadium?...you might have guessed, nearby Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City home of the Kansas City Chiefs!
You surely must know that many Chief's fans are KU fans, and many KU fans are Chief's fans, yup, got the fans if you can only put a winning team on the field, right? No so fast my friends. That is only half of the equation...remember Allen FH, yes, the team is always good, but it's the setup and intimidation factor of the home court that scares the hell out of the visiting team...same for the Chiefs.
Arrowhead stadium is a multi-tiered stadium of some 80,000 or so spectators, we can't expect 80K to Lawrence just yet, but how does up to 62,000 sound! The following stadium description is based on Allen Field House and Arrowhead Stadium plus bits and pieces of some of the greatest sports gathering places on earth with many of the latest strategies for providing a game day experience that helps the home team WIN and the party on MASS St. rage on for hours...or for us older folks...makes our ears ring all night long like a game at AFH.
Here, we, go!
Enclose the south end. Gotta do it. You can give up on the notion of it is so cool to see the university beyond. Ya that is great, as we watch KU lose year after year! How about a compromise. Enclosing the stadium by creating a full bowl is a priority. We remove the last couple of sections on the south end, push the field as close as safety allows to the north stands...OH, don't forget DROP THE FIELD! Yes, we must, it will improve site lines, and give the sense of enclosure that a gladiator sport needs! This is the first step in keeping the sound on the ground, it will go there and stay in the hole. After we remove the south sections, we remove of the upper section on the east side. We add an identical bowl that exists in the north end to the south end...get rid of that fan zone or whatever in the world that is, no more makeshift gimmicks for a big-time program, it's football first and only, no kid zones in the bowl! Keep that underneath or around the stadium and away from the gladiator’s surface :)
A full ring of seating on the bottom level with a large portal for the home team to run directly from the football complex to the field, much the same as the Basketball team does from the locker room to the court with the fans being roped off for high fives and a few close moments with their Jayhawk favorite players just before they take the field. Of course, we renovate the visitors’ lockers...barely, but we do give them a nice narrow winding passageway to the field for single file or at best two abreast entry to the field...single file losers, single file!
The existing old folks’ section (we relate to this section the most) on the West stands under the press box remains. We expand the press boxes and include more donor suites as we will need them. Nothing changes for these season ticket holders in terms of location. Then we ring the stadium with a concourse level to help the circulation and amenities for the game day fan, as well as provide some ideal location suites for the people that have been successful in their financial lives and want to give just a bit more than their heart and soul to KU.
On top of the concourse/suite level is the upper ring of seating. Not an entire ring, but sections that make for enclosure of the stadium and give levels for fan noise to be trapped within the stadium. The premise of the entire design is trapping the sound, the upper ring is the second most important feature to doing that besides enclosing the south end. Yes, the dropping of the field helps and that is probably in 3rd place tie with the next feature, the roof! Roof features are not just from shielding fans from the sun and slightly wetter elements, but if done right, helps reflect the sound back onto the field.
We have trapped the noise of the stadium temporarily, so let’s NOT let it out (at least not quickly), let's enclose the rest of the stadiums exterior skin with limestone base, glass curtain walls around the second tier of seating and concourse. We might not have a full dome, but we have all the elements that make domes so great at keeping the noise on the field. This is an intimidating home field advantage that other stadiums don’t take advantage of.
Back to the upper-level ring, North and South ends get Jayhawk Jumbo-trons, you just gotta see the replay! There would also be a party deck on the south end with a smaller version on the north. On the south party deck we cut the seating back to account for the jumbo-Tron of course, but with the desire to preserve as much of the view of the campus, we have the larger outer skin of curtain wall (big glass walls...i.e.. Sprint Center exterior....OK, T-Mobile...whatever!
Lots of activities on the party deck for everyone with an open-air deck on the Hill side of the stadium for campus viewing as well in a future phase perhaps.
OK, of course there will some that like, some that can make suggestions to improve and the many haters that abound whenever you put something out in these days of anonymous hate. But that is ok, as we just want to get the conversation started, so we can get the party started!
I will throw out the first thought, how about a huge, 30’ tall KU Jayhawk on the top of the north Jumbo-tron like an Olympic torch! Yeah! Beat that!!
OK, I like the challenge I just laid out, here is another idea, let's add a jumbo-tron on the south end exterior of the stadium so pregame can watch the inside happenings of the stadium, advertisers can use this to help KU pay for the stadium with ads or ads promoting KU and of course pumping the faithful up for the game, then when the stadium starts selling out, we bring back the old days of sitting on the hill watching the game and helping cheer on the Jayhawks, almost in person! Maybe even a movie night or two on the hill or an occasional outdoor classroom. Graduation march down the hill showing the graduates faces as they enter under the stadium just before they walk out of the tunnel onto the stadium surface.
((See the stadium design below. Remember, we aren't finished, we just feel we need to get people talking and see the feedback and ideas that others have. Be sure to select the, + SEE MORE , link below each block of images. Also, click on an image to expand it.))
ROCK CHALK JAYHAWK, GO KU!
The first image you see below is an overlay of the existing stadium and the concept stadium. The red areas are existing stadium elements that will need to be demolished to make the concept work. The thought is that the stadium construction will take a number of years and we are trying to avoid having to use an off site location for KU home games during construction. In the first phase, the field would be dropped and moved to the north end 10 yards or so, at the same time the demolition of the red shaded areas can take place. After that, the design and construction teams would best select the elements to produce in a phased development approach.
We will post updates periodically as we finish the schematic design and get feedback.
The image above is an aerial overlay of the existing stadium with the new design superimposed. The red sections are areas of the existing stadium that will need to be demolished.
See the image gallery below.