Construction crews and Bobcats have taken over Memorial Stadium. But, no, it's not the start of any major stadium renovations that KU fans are dying to see.
Instead, the Kansas University athletic department is replacing the turf at Memorial Stadium in preparation for the upcoming spring football season.
The old turf, which already has been completely ripped out, was installed in the spring and summer of 2009 and the new turf, which went down last summer in place of the old track that was torn out following the completion of Rock Chalk Park, will remain in place. When the project is finished, which KU officials said would be in time for spring practices, the two shades of green will match better than the turf did last season.
Work on the project began last weekend and the construction crews are currently in the process of re-leveling the entire field.
Once the new turf is installed, it will look nearly identical to what you saw last season in terms of logos and end zone markings, with the only exception being a six-foot white border surrounding the playing field instead of the 18-20-inch border that had been there. The thicker boundary is more in line with what the rest of the Big 12 Conference stadiums have in place.
According to a KU official with knowledge of the project, the new turf is expected to hold up for around eight years.
KU associate athletic director Jim Marchiony said the cost of the current project is around $200,000, less than half of last summer's $500,000 price tag to remove the track and put turf down in its place. That project was paid for by an anonymous donor.
With fall camp set to open at the end of the week, construction on the new turf going down in place of the old track at Memorial Stadium is nearing its completion.
Construction crews began installing the turf on Thursday morning and are expected to tie together the final touches this week. .
There's still some work to be done, with regard to stitching in the lines and markings off of the playing field and adding the new Big 12 logo to the turf and the new black, decorative fence that will surround the south end, but the bulk of what's going to be there on Saturdays this fall is in place and you can really start to see what it will look like.
It's important to remember that, what it looks like today and what it will look like on game days is completely different. On game day, there will be benches out there, equipment out there, players out there and all of the other things that make up a Saturday college football atmosphere.
Finishing off the turf is an involved process that includes both hot glue, adding the rubber that gives the surface its softer feel and sewing together the pieces that measure five yards wide and anywhere from 30 to 50 yards long.
Here's a quick look at some of the most recent photos of what's going on over at Memorial Stadium:
This one from late Sunday evening offers a good look at all the green that now surrounds the playing surface at Memorial Stadium:
Here are a few from Richard Gwin from late last week as the project began:
And a couple more from me during a trip up there last week:
It's been almost two weeks since our last look at the progress at Memorial Stadium, where construction crews are working to remove the track and lay down asphalt and turf in its place.
Not a ton has changed in terms of the aesthetic of the stadium, but the drainage asphalt has been put down around the perimeter and that allows you to see a clearly defined area where the turf soon will be.
Not as dramatic as the last look, but still interesting nonetheless. The project, which began June 25, is slated to take 6 weeks and should be done in time for the beginning of fall football camp, which opens Aug. 8.
For now, there's still a construction-grade chain link fence around the south end of the stadium so no sign of the new decorative fence that will replace it. But I'm guessing that will be one of the final steps in the project.
Here's a few angles of what's new....
View from the southeast corner of Memorial Stadium:
View of the West sideline:
Elevated view of the entire stadium:
View through the fence behind the south end zone:
(This one is particularly cool because a good chunk of the asphalt you see used to be track)
How the upcoming track removal at Memorial Stadium could make fans feel closer to the action on Saturdays
The prevailing thought with most KU football fans seems to be that the biggest reason the track needed to come out of Memorial Stadium was because the seats are too far away from the action.
While the idea of lowering the field and adding seats closer to the sideline remains very possible, such a step won't come for at least a couple of years.
KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger told me last week that he's still got the lowering the field option on his radar. But while architects are working up preliminary plans for a major renovation at Memorial Stadium down the road — so KU can be ready to strike when the money and momentum (perhaps in the opposite order) are in hand — nothing about the bigger project is set in stone at this point. Zenger and his staff continue to kick around ideas, examine other venues and talk to professionals about what's possible, what's not and how much all of their different ideas would cost.
We'll get to that in time. But for now, the track's coming out and it's happening tomorrow.
If you ask me, that's going to do a lot more for Memorial Stadium than I think most people may realize. Here's why.
What we've had at Memorial Stadium for the past several decades, in my opinion, is a bit of an optical illusion. Because of the different color of the track, the lines that divide the lanes within it and the extra layer of separation that can be seen from the stands, the seats feel and appear to be farther from the field than they actually are.
Because the issue of getting rid of the track has been kicked around for several years now, I've often thought about it while visiting other stadiums. I can't recall exactly what the distances are at each venue I've been to but I can assure you that the distance between the stands and the sideline at Memorial Stadium is in the same ballpark as many of those other stadiums.
Take K-State's Bill Snyder Family Stadium for example. The last time I was over there to cover a game, I paced it off. Again, I don't recall exactly what the distance was but I remember it being in the 48-50-foot range. If my steps were accurate, that would actually put the seats at K-State farther away from the field than what KU fans will enjoy during the upcoming season, when the 37 feet of turf that replace the track and 10 feet of drainage asphalt will create a distance of 47 feet from the sideline to the stands.
Only time will tell if this optical illusion really existed or if the vantage point changes dramatically (or even just a little) after the removal of the track is complete.
But here's guessing that in addition to looking much nicer and much more like a big-time college football venue, the fans in the stands also will feel like they're closer to the action after this project is complete six weeks from now without KU Athletics having to move so much as a single bolt in the Memorial Stadium bleachers.
What they do from here is anyone's guess, but I'm in total agreement with Zenger and KU coach Charlie Weis that this is a fantastic first step in remaking an old stadium in a fabulous setting.
The media’s picks for preseason all-Big 12 honors were released today, and, probably to no one’s surprise, the first-team lists did not include any Jayhawks.
During the past couple of weeks, I thought long and hard about KU’s chances of getting a player on the first team. Each time, I concluded that it was not likely.
Not only are the Jayhawks devoid of top-tier talent — especially when comparing them to the rest of the Big 12 rosters — but they’re also coming off of two of the worst years in school and league history, something that surely that has stuck with the rest of the media members who cover the league.
There are guys who belong in the conversation. Offensive lineman Tanner Hawkinson is a legit talent with an NFL future who has carved out a nice career, but it’s not surprising that he was not named a first-teamer. I would say Hawkinson, who once again will hold down his familiar spot at left tackle during his senior season, had a better shot of being a first-teamer on the postseason awards than he did the preseason lists.
Another guy who constantly crosses my mind when it comes to these types of lists is senior wide receiver and kick returner D.J. Beshears. Last year, I included Beshears on my preseason ballot but KU’s special teams as a whole — including Beshears — were a disaster last season and he did not sniff a mention on the postseason squad.
Others who KU fans might think warranted consideration here include: defensive end Toben Opurum, safety Bradley McDougald or punter Ron Doherty.
While I like all of those guys and think they are among KU’s best players, I don’t think they’ve proven that they belong on this list just yet. Opurum and McDougald are still relatively new to defense and their numbers have not necessarily made them stand out in the minds of people outside of Lawrence.
As for Beshears, he may have another stellar year in the return game like he did as a sophomore, but, even at that, it’s hard to justify putting him ahead of Kansas State’s Tyler Lockett on this list.
Today’s news might have come as a disappointment for some KU fans, but it should not have come as a surprsie. Based on what we know about KU’s roster and how certain players stack up against the league’s top players at each position, it seems more than fair to leave the Jayhawks off of this list and make them earn their way onto the postseason squad. Whether any will or not remains to be seen.
For the record, neither Tom Keegan, Jesse Newell or myself included a single KU player on our ballots.
Here’s a look at the media's picks for the preseason all-Big 12 first-team offense and defense:
Pos Name School Ht Wt Cl/Exp Hometown
WR Kenny Stills, Oklahoma 6-1 189 Jr/2L Encinitas, Calif.
TE Jordan Najvar, Baylor 6-6 260 Jr/1L Spring, Texas
OL Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma 6-4 295 Jr/2L Oklahoma City, Okla.
OL Cyril Richardson, Baylor 6-5 335 Jr/2L Fort Worth, Texas
C Ben Habern, Oklahoma 6-4 292 Sr/3L Argyle, Texas
OL LaAdrian Waddle, Texas Tech 6-6 318 Sr/3L Columbus, Texas
OL Lane Taylor, Oklahoma State 6-3 328 Sr/3L Arlington, Texas
WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia 5-9 174 Sr/3L Baltimore, Md.
QB Geno Smith, West Virginia 6-3 214 Sr/3L Miami, Fla.
RB Joseph Randle, Oklahoma State 6-1 200 Jr/2L Wichita, Kan.
RB Malcolm Brown, Texas 6-0 213 So/1L Cibolo, Texas
PK Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State 6-1 205 Sr/3L Mansfield, Texas
KR Tyler Lockett, Kansas State 5-11 175 So/1L Tulsa, Okla.
Pos Name School Ht Wt Cl/Exp Hometown
DL Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas 6-5 250 Jr/2L Plano, Texas
DL Stansly Maponga, TCU 6-2 265 Jr/2L Carrollton, Texas
DL Alex Okafor, Texas 6-4 260 Sr/3L Pflugerville, Texas
DL Jamarkus McFarland, Oklahoma 6-2 296 Sr/3L Lufkin, Texas
LB Arthur Brown, Kansas State 6-1 228 Sr/3L Wichita, Kan.
LB A.J. Klein, Iowa State 6-2 244 Sr/3L Kimberly, Wis.
LB Jake Knott, Iowa State 6-3 239 Sr/3L Waukee, Iowa
DB Brodrick Brown, Oklahoma State 5-8 185 Sr/3L Houston, Texas
DB Kenny Vaccaro, Texas 6-1 215 Sr/3L Brownwood, Texas
DB Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma 5-10 199 Jr/2L Chula Vista, Calif.
DB Nigel Malone, Kansas State 5-10 185 Sr/3L Manteca, Calif.
P Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State 6-1 205 Sr/3L Mansfield, Texas
PR Tavon Austin, West Virginia 5-9 174 Sr/3L Baltimore, Md.
Congratulations, Jayhawk fans.
It turns out you do have a Top 20 football program after all.
At least that’s what the guys at predictionmachine.com say about the Kansas University football program’s home-field advantage at Memorial Stadium.
We’ll get into the specifics of the study and how the rankings were compiled in a minute. It’s important for those of you who may be checking your pulse — or your glasses — to stick with me to that part of this blog.
For starters, though, let’s just get right to the meat of it all. According to the study, which includes data from as far back as 2000, the KU football program has the 14th best home-field advantage of all Div. I, FBS programs in the country.
Better than Alabama, better than Texas, better than Kansas State. Heck, according to these guys, KU ranks second in the Big 12 when it comes to home-field advantage, with only Oklahoma (1st) and former Big 12 schools Missouri (4th) and Texas A&M (12th) rating higher than the Jayhawks.
So what gives? How is it possible that a program that has just a handful of bowl appearances all-time and a student fan base that routinely leaves games at halftime and does not return ranks near the top of college football in home-field advantage?
Well, according to this study, the fever of the fans, the gameday atmosphere, the decibel level and the construction of the stadium don’t mean squat.
This study merely analyzes things from a scientific perspective, with the conclusion being based on which teams perform at a higher level at home above what is expected and how consistently that performances is delivered.
In short, it’s long been known that the Jayhawks both play and fare better in Memorial Stadium than they do on the road, and that’s basically what this study is saying.
That’s why the elite programs in the country rank near the bottom. Alabama is 106th, Texas is 100th, Nebraska 102nd and Florida 96th. Most years, these programs are so loaded with talent that it does not matter where they play or who they’re playing. These teams typically roll to blowout after blowout regardless of where the game is played, which makes their home-field advantage less significant and certainly less crucial than the advantage for a program like KU.
I’m pretty sure that even the most die-hard Jayhawk fans would say that playing in Tuscaloosa or Austin or Lincoln or at the Swamp is a much more difficult endeavor than coming into Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, Kansas. And they’re right. But this study did not take into account any of the environmental factors that make college football so great. It merely looked at the numbers and spit out this fascinating, yet head-scratching, list.
So why do the study? Why not?
It’s kind of interesting to see that the Jayhawks get such a lift out of playing at home, even if the stands aren’t always full or people do leave long before the final gun.
For those interested, here’s the complete list, which also includes a full explanation of how the results were reached.
I figured many of you would be hearing about this from friends, on Twitter or on message boards out there, so I wanted to help explain the list to you before you thought you were going insane.
For those curious about where the Big 12's programs rank, here's that list:
- Oklahoma - 1st
- Kansas - 14th
- Oklahoma State - 17th
- Texas Tech - 24th
- Iowa State - 25th
- Kansas State - 27th
- Baylor - 42nd
- TCU - 55th
- Texas - 100th
- West Virginia - 111th