University of Kansas Chancellor Douglas Girod understands that, at its core, the campus gateway project he and many others have been working on has a football element.
The area that will be transformed is strongly tied to the location of David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. That same football stadium will undergo a level of transformation. And it’s part of why the estimated total cost of the project, as listed in an application to the Kansas Department of Commerce’s University Challenge Grant program for $50 million, is $335 million.
But speaking to The Topeka Capital-Journal this week, Girod explained what that $50 million will be used for — because the funds have been allocated to Kansas — has to do with the economic development aspects of the project. This would create things that impact the university, the community, and the state all year round. And as Girod reflected on the first concepts they worked on, he mentioned the possibilities of a convention center, hotel, entertainment venue and clinic.
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“From a challenge grant perspective, helping that side of those elements’ economic development is what that grant is really key to,” Girod said. “We have to go out and raise, obviously, money 3 to 1 against that to be able to get that money. So, we have our work ahead of us to go out and raise $150 million to do that. And then it’s going to be a combination of those to help us get all the elements of that project done.
The $150 million in private funding, to receive that $50 million from the state, is possible through a guarantee of support from the KU Endowment Association. The executive committee of the association’s board of trustees has already approved it. Collectively, the estimated total of $335 million in the application is split into $50 million from the grant, $35 from “ARPA Funds Appropriate for KU by the 2022 Legislature,” and $250 million in private funding, the latter of which is further detailed as private endowments, on-site development opportunities and bond debt serviced by revenues generated by the stadium.
Girod hopes that what has been completed will be fully integrated into the new football stadium, so someone could come for a conference on a Wednesday and then stay for a game on a Saturday. And he also thinks he can help with enrollment, as more eyes would turn to the university and more people would come around, because he views athletics often as a public gateway to a university. A large part of the application for the $50 million grant was about the effect this might have on membership, as well as the focus on economic development, which in some was also tied to the benefit of membership success.
“The taxpayer component would go into the non-football part of that project,” Girod said. “We have to raise the money for the football side of that project.”
Girod noted that he feels this will be a win-win for everyone. He understands that there will sometimes be disruptions with construction and that timelines are tight because what is funded through the grant program must be completed by September 2026. But, overall, he described a sense of excitement.
Jordan Guskey covers University of Kansas athletics at the Topeka Capital-Journal. He is the National Sports Media Association Sportswriter of the Year for the state of Kansas for 2022. Contact him at [email protected] or on Twitter at @JordanGuskey.