Less than 24 hours before the Border War between Kansas University and Missouri, the City War between Lawrence High and Free State High will occur this fall at KU's Memorial Stadium.
FSHS and KU officials have finalized details for the Firebirds and Lions to play football at Memorial Stadium on Oct. 19, the day before the KU-MU football game. Kickoff for the LHS-FSHS game has been set for 7 p.m.
The precedent for a regular-season high school game to be played at KU was set last season when Free State entertained Shawnee Mission South in mid-September. It was the first game played on KU's new AstroPlay artificial surface and came the day before KU played a night game against Alabama-Birmingham at Memorial Stadium.
"It was such a neat experience last year for the kids and fans," said FSHS athletics director Steve Grant, who wants to play one game a year at KU. "Last year was very successful. Had it not been a success, we probably wouldn't have looked into it again.
"I still see Shawnee Mission South athletics director Bill Stiegemeier and he still talks about what a neat deal that was. I think it'd be great for the community members who maybe don't take the opportunity to see a KU game to come out and watch the high schools. People came to the game last year that hadn't come to a high school game in a long time."
KU officials wouldn't mind making high school football in the regular season at Memorial Stadium an annual event.
"We enjoy the opportunity to have high school teams participate in our facilities," KU associate AD Richard Konzem said. "It's a positive experience for us and the university. The more time we get high school kids on our campus, the better chance we have of them coming to KU as students."
Konzem said he checked with MU officials before finalizing the contract with Free State.
"We worked with Missouri and talked to them about their use of the stadium before the Saturday game and they understood," Konzem said. "The potential still exists that the Kansas-Missouri game will be at 11:30 a.m. We couldn't let them in the locker room until 10 p.m. Friday to drop off their gear."
FSHS will pay KU approximately $3,000 for the use of the stadium or the same cost the city schools pay Haskell Indian Nations University each game for the use of Haskell Stadium. The fee will cover the costs of stadium rental, lights and security. FSHS will be responsible for cleaning the stadium after the LHS game.
Konzem said LHS also had the opportunity to play a home game at KU.
"We have offered each high school one game a year to be played at Memorial Stadium," Konzem said.
LHS, content playing their home games at Haskell, declined the offer to play a Friday game against Kansas City Washington at KU on Sept. 21. FSHS will play host to Olathe East at Haskell the same night.
"We appreciate their offer, but we have things already set up with the officials to play Washington on Thursday, Sept. 20," LHS athletics director Ron Commons said. "We're afraid if we'd change and play Friday night that the officiating crew might not be available and they would end up with a piecemeal crew and who knows what you might get.
"We don't want to make our patrons choose. We'd like to have a great crowd on Thursday and a great crowd come back on Friday."
Haskell, home of Lion football since 1930, has created a raucous atmosphere for the LHS-FSHS football series. Approximately 10,000 fans have watched each of the first four meetings between the two schools. Last year's FSHS-SM South game at Memorial Stadium drew approximately 6,750 fans.
KU's Memorial Stadium's capacity is listed at 50,250. Grant said the rowdy atmosphere from Haskell's stadium for the city clash could carry over to KU.
"Last year we roped off the area and made sure people sat between the 30-yard lines and in the lower level to have the appearance of a good crowd," Grant said. "I still think it'll be a neat atmosphere."
LHS football coach Dirk Wedd said his players probably would like playing at KU.
"We'll play them wherever they tell us to play, but we like Haskell because when we play Free State there for our away game it's still like a home game for Lawrence High," Wedd said. "I'm sure the kids will think it's neat."
LHS, which leads the city series 3-1, has no intention of playing Free State at KU in 2002, when it's the Lions' turn to host the Firebirds. The Lions haven't played at KU since winning the Class 6A state title there in 1995.
"Our home field is Haskell," Wedd said. "It's been our home field for more than 40 years. We've won a lot of football games on that field."