Once considered a classic feature of college athletics, the idea of having a running track inside a football stadium has now been rendered nearly obsolete. Just two schools among the five richest conferences in the country still have tracks in their football stadiums.
One of those schools — Duke — has officially announced plans to remove its track at Wallace Wade Stadium. The other — yes, Kansas — is still working out the details before making any public proclamations.
Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger said this week that the school is still exploring options for the removal of the track at Memorial Stadium, a project that appears next on the agenda after the opening of a new track facility at Rock Chalk Park earlier this year.
Zenger has already publicly discussed a football stadium renovation that will take a “massive fundraising campaign,” and KU officials continue to work with Kansas City-based architecture firm HNTB on design ideas. But with the start of the football season less than three months away, the track may live for another season.
“Right now, I would just say our facilities crew has brought different options to me and our internal staff,” Zenger said. “We’re just reviewing all the options that are brought us to. We don’t want to commit to anything until we have all the options in front of us.”
The removal of the track — and the lowering of the field — has been discussed for years, sitting atop the wishlist of many Kansas fans. While KU might have a window for a small project at Memorial Stadium this summer — such as simply tearing out the track — such a development may not be worthwhile in the larger context of renovation plans.
In the absence of a complete removal, Kansas could also potentially have the option of covering the track or doing something temporary to make the stadium experience feel more intimate. But for now, Zenger says Kansas will continue to look at options.
“It’s not so much taking the track out,” Zenger said. “It’s what you do in its place that needs to be discussed.”