KSHSAA expects Wichita’s Cessna Stadium to host state track meet for at least one more year
photo by: Photo courtesy of Wichita State University
Plans to tear down Wichita State’s Cessna Stadium have been approved by the Kansas Board of Regents, but the venue may not have hosted its last state high school track meet.
The stadium will be empty this weekend, when the 2020 all-classes state track and field meet was supposed to take place. But Bill Faflick, the executive director of the Kansas State High School Activities Association, said he expected the 51-year-old stadium to still be standing for the 2021 meet.
“Wichita State has shared with me that they anticipate no challenges for the next meet and maybe even longer,” Faflick recently told the Journal-World. “While they have approval (to tear it down), they have not raised one dollar towards the demolition nor towards the reconstruction of the stadium.”
A Wichita State spokesman confirmed this week that no funds had been raised and added that there was no timeline for the project.
According to a report from KSN.com, Wichita State’s request for demolition came in response to rising repair costs and the fact that the stadium is no longer in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Home to Wichita State football games until the program was discontinued in 1986, Cessna Stadium has been best known for decades as the home of the state track meet along with WSU’s own track and field program.
The eventual plan for replacing it is to rebuild a new multipurpose stadium in the same location on the WSU campus.
Wichita State officials have communicated with KSHSAA about what that means for the state meet, which is the only all-class (1A-6A) high school state meet in the country.
“They have said point-blank, ‘We’d love to be able to continue to have that meet here in Wichita,'” Faflick said. “But I don’t know what the future holds. There have been so many great memories at Cessna Stadium and I certainly hope that there’s many, many more to come.”
One of the biggest factors in whether KSHSAA will be able to continue to have the state track meet at Cessna Stadium is the size and seating capacity of the new venue.
Built in 1969 and renovated in both 1996 and 2002, Cessna Stadium lists its current capacity at 24,000. Faflick said he has been told that the new venue, whenever it is finished, will be smaller.
He also knows roughly how big the new stadium needs to be in order to accommodate the thousands of track athletes, coaches and fans who flock to Wichita each year.
“I’m guessing that somewhere in the neighborhood of 20,000 would probably be sufficient for us,” Faflick said.
Hosting the state meet is not just about seating capacity, though, Faflick said. It also is important to make sure all of the events can run smoothly without getting in each other’s way.
Only the discus and javelin have been held outside of Cessna Stadium, with 16 other events taking place inside the stadium in all 12 — six boys classes and six girls classes — of the state’s annual, Friday and Saturday championships.
“There’s been talk for years that maybe we should move an event to Thursday,” Faflick said. “But we don’t want to do anything to diminish the atmosphere in which those kids compete. Because that’s huge.”
One other potential hurdle, Faflick said, is the season-ending meet temporarily having to relocate for a year or two while construction is done at WSU.
“I don’t know what that looks like yet,” Faflick said.
Attracting competitors from all four corners of the state since 1970, the KSHSAA state track meet at Cessna Stadium has garnered a reputation as the largest track meet in the United States.
Faflick said he was not sure if that distinction was accurate — “It depends on how you count attendance,” he said — but he was sure that the meet is one of the two or three biggest high school meets in the country.
“You’re proud of that,” he said. “It’s neat to say that. But that’s not why you do those kinds of things. That meet has been what many think of as the end of another great school year and the beginning of summer for years. And we love being able to have everybody together for our final event of the school year.”