MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Leave it to ambitious Kansas State athletic director John Currie to trump the annual spring game by unveiling a $65 million renovation to Bill Snyder Family Stadium before kickoff.
Joined by former Wildcats Darren Sproles and Terence Newman, Currie showed off renderings of a massive upgrade to the north end of the stadium on the stadium’s video boards, shortly before a purple team comprised mainly of starters beat the white team of backups 23-13 on Saturday.
The stadium project will be funded entirely through private donations, led by a $20 million gift from longtime benefactor Jack Vanier’s family. Currie said about 75 percent of the first $50 million has already been raised, which means the project can move forward with a groundbreaking scheduled for the Wildcats’ home finale against Kansas on Nov. 29.
“This is something that’s been a long time coming, and it’s a historic step for us,” Currie said. “This is building is the next phase of our master plan, based on two things: the student-athlete experience and that grassroots fan base that we have here.”
The construction will replace the existing Vanier Football Complex, which houses the locker rooms, team meetings spaces, the strength and conditioning center and administrative spaces. It will also reconfigure the end-zone seating, adding about 1,000 seats to the current capacity.
The project will break ground just over a year after a $90 million redevelopment of the west side of the stadium, which resulted in a new press box, club seating and suites.
“This project is a big step in the development not only of Wildcat football but all of K-State athletics,” said Sproles, now with the Philadelphia Eagles. “A project such as this will help our program to continue to build upon the success we have achieved.”
The Wildcats hope to build on the success they achieved last season. After a sluggish start, they won six of their final seven games, routing Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
While they’ll have to replace several key players, including running back John Hubert, they also return several key pieces. Among them are quarterback Jake Waters, defensive end Ryan Mueller and wide receiver Tyler Lockett, who was banged up and did not play in the spring game.
Speaking of the spring game, here are five things to take away:
— The game’s biggest star won’t be found on the depth chart. That would be Kaiden Schroeder, an 8-year-old who is battling leukemia. After running for a 30-yard touchdown, he hoisted on the shoulders teammates in the end zone as the crowd gave him a big ovation.
— Daniel Sams showed flashes of what he can do at wide receiver. After backing up Waters last season, Sams decided to switch positions to get on the field more, and showed off his athleticism for both teams. He also fielded punts and kickoffs.
“At first it was a struggle for him fundamentally,” said fellow wide receiver Curry Sexton, a senior. “Toward the end of spring we saw him do some really nice things.”
—The running back race appears wide open. DeMarcus Robinson was the front-runner but has been banged up and didn’t play. Charles Jones ran 20 times for 73 yards, while Jarvis Leverett Jr. ran for 69 yards. All of them will face pressure from incoming freshman Dalvin Warmack, the first two-time winner of the Simone Award, given to the Kansas City area’s top prep player.
—Both offenses struggled to move the ball. Part of it was stingy defense, but part of it was gusty winds that made passing difficult. Waters was 26 of 38 for 227 yards with an interception.
“Today didn’t really show how much we’ve grown this spring,” Waters said.
—Plenty of help has yet to arrive. Junior college transfers Terrell Clinkscales, a defensive tackle, and Dvonta Derricott, a linebacker, are expected on campus this summer. Both could crack the starting lineup by the season opener Aug. 30 against Stephen F. Austin.
“I don’t think we were the kind of football team I wanted to see,” Snyder said. “The white team I thought collectively played better than the purple did.”