When Kansas State football players take the field for the first of 14 spring practices on Wednesday, it’ll be in front of a stadium under construction.
The west side of Bill Snyder Family Stadium is being renovated. The old press box has been demolished. In its place stands a bare steel structure that spans the length of the field and towers over the area. It is surrounded by cranes and other equipment, and can be seen from miles away. It is one of the first things visitors see as they drive into town.
When construction is completed it will add a new state-of-the-art element to the Wildcats’ football environment. For the moment, it is in the way.
K-State administrators have had to work out ways for Snyder and his football team to practice throughout April and for fans to attend the spring game on April 27 without construction workers providing too much of a distraction.
That includes closing half of the stadium and parking lot for the spring game.
“We will only have the east side of the stadium open and we will only use the east side of the parking lot,” K-State athletic director John Currie said. “We will not have any parking available on the west side or seating available on the west side, because we anticipate it will be a Saturday afternoon and the construction crews will be working all day, so it’s just a lot safer to have no traffic and no people on the West side of the stadium.”
Some wondered if K-State might opt to hold its spring game at an alternate site, or not play one at all, but Currie said those options were never seriously considered.
Construction crews have been working around the clock to ensure the stadium’s renovation is completed in time for K-State’s season opener against North Dakota State on Aug. 30. So far, construction is ahead of schedule.
Workers were able to take last weekend off.
“Everything we hear is excellent,” Currie said. “We are excited and very confident that we will be open on Aug. 30. I was in the west side of the building the other day and you can already tell it is really going to be a first-class building for all our fans.”
Until fans are allowed inside, their focus will be on Snyder’s retooling effort coming off one of the best seasons in school history. The Wildcats won 11 games and a Big 12 championship last year, but they lose many of the key starters who brought them so much success, including Heisman Trophy finalist Collin Klein.
The biggest question entering spring practices revolves around his replacement. Will it be sophomore Daniel Sams or junior-college transfer Jake Waters?
But that isn’t the only intriguing question. The Wildcats return little on defense outside of safety Ty Zimmerman and linebacker Tre Walker. They also need to replace several starters on offense, though the entire starting offensive line returns along with running back John Hubert.
Who performs best this month will have an inside track to playing time next season.
By then, the team and Snyder Family Stadium will have a new feel.
“It is certainly moving along every day and feels more real,” Currie said. “The most exciting thing is just hearing from our fans and our student-athletes and our coaches. A few of them were telling me the other day how neat it was to look up at and see how big the structure is.”