Kansas will begin Tuesday to rip up the track surface that rings its football field at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence.
The project, which KU athletic officials estimate will cost $500,000, is expected to last six weeks and end before the Jayhawks begin play in the fall. After the track is gone, Duke will be the only university in the five richest conferences with a track surrounding its home football field.
New artificial turf will cover the space exposed by the track’s removal, except for 10 feet of asphalt extending from the stands on the north, east and west sides of the stadium, according to KU. The plan also calls for the chain-link fence in the south end zone to be replaced.
“Rarely in facilities work do we get to do something that directly benefits players and fans at the same time,” KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger said in a release announcing the project. “We’ll have a larger safety zone for players and more usable practice space for the team. Fans will immediately appreciate the improved optics that these changes will provide.
“During our recent discussions with players, coaches and fans, their highest priority was that we remove the track. We are grateful that a donor, who wishes to remain anonymous, stepped up to make possible this intermediate phase of renovation.”
The removal of the track — and the lowering of the field — at Memorial Stadium, finished in 1921, has been discussed for years, sitting atop the wish list of many Kansas fans.
Zenger has publicly discussed a football stadium renovation that would take a “massive fundraising campaign.” And the track removal, which was made possible by the opening of a new track facility at Rock Chalk Park earlier this year, will be the first step.