History indeed awaits, two hours before the Jayhawks kick off their season Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
For the first time, eco-friendly biodiesel will power generators in the Hy-Vee Hawk Zone just south of the stadium, giving rise to more than a massive inflatable Jayhawk, bounce house and slide popular among the younger set.
The effort also aims to heighten awareness about the real-world applications of biofuels, including those brewed with used cooking oil from Mrs. E’s cafeteria atop Daisy Hill and other eateries in town.
“We’re real excited about it,” said Susan Williams, an associate professor of chemical and petroleum engineering, and director of the KU Biodiesel Initiative. “A football game is a high-visibility event for us to be able to provide some information to the community about some of the research on campus and the potential for biofuels.
“It’s a win-win for all involved.”
Among the winners, even before the Jayhawks open their football season with a 6 p.m. home game against Northern Colorado:
• Kansas University’s School of Engineering, which will have an information table set up in the Hawk Zone and students explaining how they can convert every 40 gallons of used cooking oil into 36 gallons of clean-burning biodiesel. They also hope to add to their current roster of oil contributors: Mrs. E’s, Johnny’s Tavern, Local Burger and 23rd Street Brewery.
• Kansas Athletics Inc., which no longer will have to rent generators or buy fuel to run them at the Hawk Zone. The Biofuels Initiative bought three new generators and is providing the biodiesel free of charge, in part because Kansas Athletics gave the initiative $1,800 from proceeds of selling football programs last season.
• The environment, as the old cooking oil won’t be going down a drain but instead burned in a diesel engine that otherwise would be using conventional fuel that would produce more pollutants.
KU fans also can expect a more pleasant experience at the Hawk Zone, the kid-friendly entertainment area that opens two hours before games and closes a half hour before the final whistle.
Because the new generators — 6,500-watt units that weigh 350 pounds each — are enclosed, they are about half as loud as the open ones used in previous years.
“They’re rated whisper-quiet,” Williams said, noting that the generators are quieter than the blowers they feed power into. “It’s like background noise.”
Lew Perkins, athletics director, said Kansas Athletics was “delighted” to partner with the Biodiesel Initiative, one of four such efforts to receive financial assistance from last year’s program sales.
“This is another great example of how Kansas Athletics can work together with KU’s academic units to do positive work,” Perkins said.
On Wednesday, Perkins and Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little announced plans to spend $32 million to add club seating on the stadium’s east side, a project that would be financed by sales of club seats. Seat sales also would be expected to pour $40 million into KU academic programs, to support students, faculty and academic programs.